Seeker Spotlight: Sandler-Kenner Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer

Posted by Connie French on Mar 6, 2012 10:29:05 AM

Michael Sandler and Peter Kenner

We recently announced a Challenge for the Sandler-Kenner Foundation, seeking early diagnostic tools for pancreatic cancer. We asked Dr. Gregory Echt, Chairman of the Sandler-Kenner Foundation, to talk to us a bit about his Challenge and tell us why it’s so important that a solution is found.

Hi Dr. Echt, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your Challenge. Can you tell us a bit about the history of the Sandler-Kenner Foundation?

My wife, Susan Echt, and I had two dear friends pass away quite rapidly from pancreatic cancer - Michael Sandler and Peter Kenner. They were in the prime of their lives, but were diagnosed at later stages of their disease and both died shortly thereafter.

Since I am a radiation oncologist and run a busy oncology practice I see this story play out time and time again each day. The key to good outcomes when dealing with pancreatic cancer is finding and diagnosing as early in the process as possible. I was frustrated by the current limitations in detecting and diagnosing pancreatic cancer at a treatable stage. With that in mind, my wife and I took it

upon ourselves to start a foundation focused on finding solutions that will lead to the early detection of pancreatic cancer universally. The Sandler-Kenner Foundation was formed to provide support for research in early detection that will translate to improved survivability.

What does a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer mean for a patient right now?
Currently, 44,000 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year. Of those diagnosed, 39,000 will die within a short period of time thereafter. Outcomes are universally poor and the five-year survival rate is less than 5%.
Pancreatic cancer is very difficult to detect and diagnose early. Currently there are no routine protocols established to screen for pancreatic cancer. For one, there aren’t any noticeable signs or symptoms in the early stages of pancreatic cancer, and when present, they are similar to the signs of many other illnesses. Another reason it is so difficult to diagnose is the placement of the pancreas itself. The pancreas sits deep in the upper abdomen hidden behind other organs such as the stomach and liver. Frequently by the time the patient is diagnosed the disease is in its latest stages and successful treatment options are limited.

Susan and Dr. Echt for blogWhy did you decide to post this problem to the InnoCentive Solver community?

We are excited to partner with InnoCentive to utilize your very broad reach. Pancreatic cancer is a worldwide problem. We are reaching out for creative solutions to find the disease early, make an early diagnosis, and thus hopefully lead to better outcomes. Through this process we also hope to raise awareness of adenocarcinoma and neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer.

What types of solutions are you hoping to receive and what do you plan to do with the winning solution(s)?

We are looking to develop inexpensive, cost effective and highly sensitive identification and screening methodologies that may be used by primary care givers and healthcare professionals worldwide. We would like to publicize the winning solution, promote its awareness, and support its development.

Your Challenge offers a bit of an extra award for the winning Solver – can you tell us a bit about that?

The Sandler-Kenner Foundation is sponsoring speakers on the topics of early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer at the the 10th Annual Simon Kramer Institute of Therapeutic Oncology Symposium. The conference is attended by numerous medical, surgical, and radiotherapeutic sub-specialists. Our hope is to give the attendees the chance to discuss and think about possible solutions. We will also be recognizing the winning solver at the symposium. For more information visit:

Is there anything else you’d like our Solvers to know about your Challenge or about the fight to cure pancreatic cancer?

I just want to reiterate the importance of early detection. To improve our outcomes, we need to identify the disease early enough to lead to more successful treatment options in the form of surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. To eradicate this killer we are going to have to “think outside of the box”. We need to identify new highly sensitive and cost effective screening techniques that can be easily implemented by primary care givers.

Thanks Dr. Echt.  And good luck with your Challenge.

Thank you.

Topics: Challenges, Seekers

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