PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Although not confirmed, it’s presumed Steve Jobs, Apple founder, died from complications of pancreatic cancer. It’s one of the deadliest cancers. Most people die within a year of being diagnosed.

Philadelphia is on the cutting edge of new research to find better treatments, and maybe someday a cure for pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Chi Van Dang, the Director of Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, says Steve Jobs had a rare form of pancreatic cancer. Dr. Dang’s research is focused on more common tumors.

“It’s a really devastating disease,” said Dr. Dang.

The pancreas, located behind the stomach, plays a critical role in food absorption and digestion.

There are usually no symptoms of pancreatic cancer until it’s more advanced, which is why survival rates are so low.

“The other reason why it’s deadly is because it’s a kind of cancer that just doesn’t respond well to standard therapy,” said Dr. Dang. That can include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

Jobs said he had been cured in 2004, but two years ago he had a liver transplant, indicating the cancer had spread.

“It just underscores the fact that these cancers are deadly. We need new therapies,” said Dr. Dang.

At Penn, they’re working on immunotherapy, where the patients immune system attacks the pancreatic cancer, and new medications to starve it.

“We’re going to make a big difference in the next five years,” said Dr. Dang.

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include stomachache, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. It’s usually diagnosed with scans of the abdomen.

While the cause is unknown, diabetes, smoking and obesity increase the risk.


Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center Pancreatic Cancer Information

Pancreatic Cancer Information

Reported by Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3

Stephanie Stahl