Reflections on the 2019 World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition Meeting

My my, how we’ve grown. And no, we’re not just talking about #PurpleOurWorld.

Recently, two of #PurpleOurWorld’s Co-Founders Daniel and Jessica attended the fourth annual World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition Meeting in the USA. As inaugural members, #PurpleOurWorld has seen the Coalition grow and develop from 54 organisations in 2016, to 81 member organisations representing 33 countries today.

That’s 81 organisations coming together to collaboratively solve what has become a pancreatic cancer crisis.

As World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition Chair, Julie Fleshman said, “No one is going to get the job done alone. It’s only if we work together that we will accelerate progress … that’s what the Coalition is all about.”

We can honestly say, we feel the collective arms of the Coalition every day, even all the way over here in Australia.

Having been at each of the four meetings we believe 2019 was the best one yet. Why? Because we truly walked away with hope. Hope that breakthroughs will come. That they’re on the horizon. We’re no longer talking 20 years into the future, but rather speaking about breakthroughs happening within single-digit years.

All things science

The Meeting opened with an informative and exciting session covering the science of pancreatic cancer at present, and we can assure you, it’s a developing space. Barbara Kenner PHD, Founder of the Kenner Family Research Foundation sat down with Talia Golan, MD from the Sheba Medical Centre and Diane Simeone, MD from NYU to discuss all things progress in the pancreatic cancer field.

Perhaps what resonated most with us was the encouragement from both Dr Golan and Dr Simeone, who opened the session with the excellent quote: “if we can land on Mars, we can find an early detection test for pancreatic cancer”.

Talking all things technology and medical advancement, Dr Golan stated: “Medicine and technology can come together, and they can come together tomorrow. We need to carry on encouraging ourselves and the people around us that the technologies are out there … this is really an evolving field.”

Both also discussed the importance of big data when it comes to treating pancreatic cancer patients – matching tumours to individualised treatment plans and clinical responses.

Collaboration is key

Throughout the meeting, there were ample opportunities to network with our fellow Coalition members. We made lots of new friends and reconnected with our old ones, and we truly loved hearing the stories from the new faces.

L-R: WPCC Chair and President and CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Julie Fleshman; Chief Executive of Pancreatic Cancer UK, Diana Jupp; Jessica and Daniel from #PurpleOurWorld … Thanks to Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation for the pic!

We heard from members about best practice when it comes to patient care and heard from experts about the importance of clinical trials. In a breakout session, Dalissa Tejera, an  Advanced Practice Registered Nurse spoke about patients who had very little hope of survival when they turned to a clinical trial. Almost five years later, she’s still in regular contact with them.

Of course, we also spoke all things World Pancreatic Cancer Day 2019 and we look forward to sharing this year’s campaign as soon as we can.

As the meeting drew to a close, we all reflected on the responsibility we hold in our hands. However, in the words of Dr Simeone, as she wrapped up the scientific session: “This Coalition is going to change the future of pancreatic cancer, just by the work you’re doing”.

It’s a sentiment we at #PurpleOurWorld wholeheartedly agree with. We cannot conquer this problem alone. Together though, that’s when the magic will happen.


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