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More than 2 decades later, new technologies help Lustgarten Foundation learn more about pancreatic cancer

New technologies help Lustgarten Foundation learn more about pancreatic cancer 02:28

NEW YORK -- More than 20 years ago, the Lustgarten Foundation was started so people could learn more about fighting pancreatic cancer.  

With 100 percent of every dollar raised dedicated to the cause, incredible progress can be touted.  

A pancreatic cancer diagnosis in the late 1990s for 51-year-old Marc Lustgarten, vice chairman of Cablevision, changed the trajectory of the disease, says Dr. David Tuveson, chief scientist at Lustgarten. 

"We didn't know very much about pancreatic cancer. There were very few people researching this disease," Tuveson said.

Not anymore. 

"It is now the most exciting time in our field, and I feel that the foundation has played a important catalytic role in raising awareness, engaging the scientists and physicians, and really connecting with the community," Tuveson continued. 

Prevention requires patient participation, as family history, obesity, diabetes with middle age onset, and smoking all promote disease. Early detection means finding tumors the size of a grain of rice.

"When you scan someone, they breathe and the rest of their body jiggles. It sounds silly, but we can't see that level of anatomic detail yet," Tuveson said. 

Molecular level imaging might make all the difference, as scientists work to develop this tech. 

Plus, better therapies are en route, says Tuveson. He points to the work happening at the Organoid Facility at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

"One of the methods we've developed through the organization is we can take a tiny sample of the patients tumor and culture it," he said.

Then grow it in an incubator and use a high-tech pharmacy that distributes more than 100 drugs at a time. 

"We test: What would the organoid say? Is one medicine better than the other?" Tuveson explained. 

Not just existing meds, but new ones, too.

"Finally, we now have a clinical trial network that was started by Dr. Elizabeth Jaffe at Johns Hopkins," said Tuveson. "So we can determine next week if we're on the right path, not next month or next year."

Tuveson said he sees a future where we need more doctors treating patients who can declare, "I'm a pancreatic cancer survivor, thanks to the work of the Lustgarten Foundation."

CBS2 News is a proud media sponsor of Lustgarten Foundation's New York City Walk for Pancreatic Research happens this Sunday, April 10th at Pier 84. CLICK HERE for more information.

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