Carbone focused on improving pancreas cancer treatment

Pancreatic cancer has lowest survival rate

From Ireland to Disney World, Milwaukee native Bill Long has had a longtime love for travel, but since June 2013 he spends more time in treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Once a marketing engineer who enjoyed gardening, life has slowed down for Bill.

“I think you get used to it and you look for the good things. That’s what’s most important is that you keep a positive attitude,” said Bill.

A positive attitude and time with family and friends are a must, according to Bill.

Since his diagnosis Bill has undergone two treatments, FOLFIRINOX and nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine, but the cancer was relentless.

When the second line didn’t work his doctor recommended going to the UW Carbone Cancer Center.

It was discovered Bill was eligible for a clinical trial at the center where he met associate professor of medicine Dr. Noelle Loconte.

“His trial is looking at a vaccine that has been developed out of Johns Hopkins that has FDA breakthrough status it’s called GVAX,” explained Loconte.

The trial has a 16-week treatment and is one of 6 UW is conducting.

Bill’s first therapy was November 11.

He says he feels “good, great, like I can take on the world! My appetite’s not gone. I’ve had no nausea so far. It’s going very, very well,” Bill said.

Loconte says treatment was limited to one drug when she entered the oncology field in 2003, but now she feels like they’re on the verge of a new era.

“I have many more clinical trials to offer people, vaccines, new clinical trials, other ways we can treat the cancer, ways we can make the radiation work better,” Loconte said.

A clinical trial doesn’t guarantee a cure and side effects can be unexpected, but it’s part of a trip Bill isn’t taking alone. He said his family “is aware of how deadly this disease is. No one has given up hope of a cure. We’re all still thinking I’m gonna be here in five years.”

According to the Pancreas Cancer Task Force at University of Wisconsin-Madison, only 6 percent of people who are diagnosed survive for 5 years. It is the lowest survival rate of all cancers.