95% of pancreatic cancer patients do not survive the disease, as it is very difficult to detect in its early stages. A study conducted in parallel at hospitals across the globe, including the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, introduces a new detection method that could save many lives.

Hilik Zacks was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, an illness for which there are no effective early discovery methods and from which 95% of patients die as a result. But Zacks, whose father died of the terrible illness 15 years ago, stayed alive and is now completely healthy.

Zacks’s life was saved after he decided to take part in a study in which doctors were able to do what was formerly considered impossible – discovering pancreatic cancer in its early stages and saving patients’ lives. “If I hadn’t taken part in this study, I think my chances of talking with you today would have been close to zero,” Zacks stated.

“It is very hard to diagnose pancreatic diseases because of the location of the pancreas. It is located in the back part of the stomach and by the time it shows symptoms and the patient feels something is wrong, it is too late,” explained Prof. Yishai Lechter, who is in charge of endoscopic ultrasound services at Rambam.

Taking part in the research are healthy patients like Hilik whose close relatives have died from the disease, making them a high-risk group to suffer from the disease themselves. Doctors examine the patients using a device called an endoscopic ultrasound which enters the body close to the pancreas and is able to detect cancerous developments like no other device up till now.

“We at Rambam offer this research to the entire Israeli population,” Prof. Lechter stated. “Everyone is welcome to approach us and be part of the study.”

The study, whose results were presented today at the Rambam–Haifa Health of Tomorrow Conference, is being conducted in parallel at twenty hospitals across the globe including at Rambam for the past decade and has saved the lives of many patients who weren’t even aware they were suffering from the illness.

Six years ago, Hilik tried to convince his brother to take part in the study but the brother refused, as he was seemingly completely healthy. Several months later, he passed away.