New National Clinical Trial Investigates Link between Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer

Western Connecticut Health Network
Pancreatic Cancer
Western Connecticut Health Network Is Screening Newly Diagnosed Diabetics for Early Stage Pancreatic Cancer

DANBURY, Connecticut, November 6, 2017 – Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN) has launched a $2.7 million, three year research study to investigate the link between new-onset diabetes and pancreatic cancer. The main goal of the study is to detect pancreatic cancer at a curable stage. Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate under 10%, and is on a trajectory to become the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States by 2020. A team of physicians and researchers at WCHN, led by Richard Frank, MD, director of clinical cancer research for WCHN, are conducting the study.

A method to detect pancreatic cancer at an earlier, more curable stage currently does not exist. One inroad into this problem is the fact that 50% of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have diabetes and in 75% of these cases, the diabetes occurred between 1–3 years before the cancer was diagnosed. Therefore, new-onset diabetes may be an early symptom of pancreatic cancer.

“We estimate that fewer than 1 out of 100 individuals with new-onset diabetes will develop pancreatic cancer. We will have achieved a major breakthrough in the early detection of this lethal cancer if we can determine which individuals with new-onset diabetes are destined to develop pancreatic cancer,” said Dr. Frank.

Study participants will undergo annual magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the pancreas for three years. A specific MRI protocol was developed by WCHN radiologists Ronald Lee, MD and James Bauman, MD. A gastroenterologist will investigate suspicious lesions using an endoscopic ultrasound to determine if there is the presence of cancer or pre-cancerous changes.

Participants will also donate a sample of blood every six months in order to create a serum biobank that may contain the earliest detection for pancreatic cancer at the DNA level. WCHN researchers will use the blood samples to identify a biomarker that does not currently exist since a blood test will be the optimal way to screen for pancreatic cancer.

Participants are not responsible for the cost of the tests required for the clinical trial. The majority of funding for the clinical trial depends on philanthropic support from donors.

Last May, James Naughton, Tony Award-winning star of theater, film and television, and his family hosted A Tribute to Pamela, an evening of musical entertainment featuring Naughton, daughter Keira, a Broadway and television actress, son Greg, singer and songwriter, and daughter-in-law Kelli O’Hara, Tony Award winner for her role as Anna in the King and I. The benefit event, honoring the legacy of Naughton’s late wife Pamela, rose over $1 million for pancreatic cancer research.

“The pancreatic cancer screening clinical trial reflects our culture of continuous learning that we believe leads to ground-breaking advances in patient care,” said John M. Murphy, MD, president and CEO of WCHN. “The clinical trial has been made possible by generous philanthropic support. We are extremely grateful to the James Naughton family for their fundraising efforts.”

Visit the clinical trial’s website for more information, to register to participate, or to make a donation. You can also contact Tammy Lo, APRN, at 203-855-3551 or

Learn more from Dr. Frank in his October 2017 Oncology Times article, here.

The study has been approved by the Institutional Review Board of WCHN and given a National Cancer Institute designation number: NCT03250078