Henry Ford announces $20 million donation toward pancreatic cancer center

Gift possible from anonymous donor

Henry Ford Health System (WDIV)
Henry Ford Health System (WDIV)

DETROIT – Henry Ford Health System announced Monday that a new $20 million gift, made possible by an anonymous individual donor, will go toward the launch of the Henry Ford Pancreatic Cancer Center. 

The center will focus on global collaborations to create new ways to detect pancreatic cancer at an early stage. The $20 million donation is expected to help form partnerships with national and international organizations to help find ways to detect pancreatic cancer early.

"We are grateful for this transformational gift that will allow Henry Ford to bring the best minds in the world together to shine an important light on pancreatic cancer," said Wright Lassiter III, the president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System in a press release. "It marks a crucial step in advancing pancreatic cancer research with the goal of increasing survivorship for patients diagnosed with this terrible disease."

The $20 million will go toward a multi-institutional pancreatic consortium -- which will serve to drive research initiatives with a focus on early detection, among other things -- an endowed director's fund to support the hiring of a leading pancreatic cancer clinical leader and research leader, and an endowed fund to establish an administrative director for the center.

Director of Surgical Oncology at Henry Ford Cancer Institute, and Director of Multidisciplinary Pancreas Clinic at Henry Ford Hospital, David Kwon, M.D., will assist in overseeing the center. 

"Never has there been a greater momentum in the fight against pancreatic cancer, and unfortunately, the incidence of pancreatic cancer will only continue to rise," Kwon said. "To effectively fight pancreatic cancer, we need to work to find solutions to problems that have eluded clinicians and researchers to date, while embracing a culture of innovation and collaboration."

According to the press release, an estimated 53,670 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year. Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of only eight percent, and there is no effective screening tool to date to diagnose pancreatic cancer early.

Most people do not experience symptoms until it is in an advanced stage, which is why the survival rate is so slim. According to Medical Director of Henry Ford Cancer Institute Steven N. Kalkanis, M.D., there has been some progress made, but there is still a long ways to go.

"While we've made incredible advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment, where some types of cancer are now curable, pancreatic cancer remains nearly a universally fatal diagnosis," he said. "One of the challenges is pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed late, general at an advanced stage, making it difficult to treat. If we are going to move the needle, we need a global crowd-sourced effort to diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier and give patients a fighting chance for survival."