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Professor Irit Ben-Aharon Awarded Grant for Pancreatic Cancer Research

Publication Date: 4/4/2022 1:30 AM

Metastatic pancreatic cancer is an aggressive disease with low life expectancy and especially poor quality of life. A new research grant will seek ways to improve those statistics.

Professor Irit Ben-Aharon. Photography: Rambam HCC.Professor Irit Ben-Aharon. Photography: Rambam HCC.

Professor Irit Ben-Aharon, Director of the Joseph Fishman Oncology Center at Rambam Health Care Campus, has been awarded a research grant of €250,000 from the European Union to investigate the use of technologies that actively monitor physical activity, nutrition, and sarcopenia (a progressive skeletal muscle disorder) measurements in patients with pancreatic cancer in order to improve their quality of life and life expectancy.

Working with RELEVIUM, the consortium of researchers that aims to address these issues, the study proposes a multimodal intervention based on detailed, remote monitoring technologies for estimating pain and sarcopenia, and monitoring nutrition, eating behavior, and the physical activity of patients. The four-year study will involve data collection and a feasibility study, a retrospective observational study, and a randomized clinical trial involving five clinical centers in Germany, Estonia, Poland, Belgium, and Israel.

These trials will assess the effectiveness of the proposed interventions in improving the quality of life of pancreatic cancer patients. Furthermore, several important parameters will be established, such as the cost-effectiveness of the proposed solution and its potential for increasing health equity across the population of the participating countries, in terms of access to supportive and palliative care for pancreatic cancer patients.

Multimodal interventions aimed at nutrition, physical activity, and tailored pain management strategies have been shown to be effective in improving the quality of life of patients with other forms of cancers (breast cancer, lung cancer, and others). However, such strategies have not been studied for pancreatic cancer patients, who often face more complex challenges such as pain and sarcopenia. In addition, there are multiple barriers to effective supportive and palliative care for several pancreatic cancer patient sub-groups. Such barriers include increased cost, the burden of frequent hospital visits, lack of access to large care facilities, and the lack of sufficient information for clinicians to effectively adapt supportive and palliative care parameters to the individual needs of patients.

Notes Professor Ben-Aharon, “Pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest five-year relative survival rates when compared to other forms of cancer, in part because it is often diagnosed in the later stages of the disease, has non-specific symptoms, and leads to early metastases. Furthermore, immunotherapy options are not yet effective for most patients. Pancreatic cancer is associated with a dismal quality of life compared with other cancer types and pain management represents a key challenge. Pancreatic cancer patients are therefore in need of supportive and palliative care in combination with anticancer therapy early in the treatment process, aimed at prolonging and improving their quality of life.”