Pancreatic Cancer

Dr. Brett Sheppard is a surgeon and co-director of OHSU’s Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Care. He is one of the world’s leading experts on pancreatic cancer care and research.
Dr. Brett Sheppard is a surgeon and co-director of OHSU’s Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Care. He is one of the world’s leading experts on pancreatic cancer care and research.

The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute provides complete care and the best-possible outcomes for patients with pancreatic cancer. Our expertise, large team and unmatched research focus give you the highest level of care.

This is especially important for an illness as complex as pancreatic cancer. Patients do best when treated by experienced doctors at a major cancer center. The Knight Cancer Institute is ranked among the best in the nation for both cancer care and research.

We offer:

  • The expertise to make surgery, and the chance for a cure, an option for more patients than ever.
  • A care team devoted to giving you the best quality of life for as long as possible.
  • Team-based care, with many specialists and scientists working together.
  • Close ties to OHSU’s Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Care, a world leader in research to improve patient lives and outcomes.
  • The most advanced therapies, including molecular profiling.
  • Clinical trials for every stage of illness.

Our excellence

National rankings: U.S. News & World Report ranks OHSU among the nation’s best cancer centers. The Knight Cancer Institute also has the National Cancer Institute’s highest designation for research excellence.

Advanced training: Our doctors completed fellowships — at least a year of post-residency training — at top cancer centers. They include the National Cancer Institute and Stanford, Duke and Johns Hopkins medical centers.

Commitment to research: We are one of the world’s few fully integrated pancreatic treatment and research centers. Our doctors and scientists in the Knight Cancer Institute and the Brenden-Colson Center work together. This means discoveries in the lab are brought to patients as quickly as possible.

Early detection: Finding pancreatic cancer early is a core mission of the Brenden-Colson Center. The center has joined forces with the Knight Cancer Institute’s Cancer Early Detection Advanced Research Center to detect pancreatic cancer when it’s most curable. The center also offers a clinic for patients at high risk of pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Kevin Billingsley (middle) consults with nurses Molly Barbar (left)  and Brooke Hambly.
Dr. Kevin Billingsley (middle) consults with nurses Molly Barbar (left) and Brooke Hambly.

Complete care

Our doctors, nurses and other providers work as a team to quickly get you the tests and treatments you need. Our care and expertise include:

Skilled surgeons

Cancer surgeons: Our surgeons are highly experienced in complex pancreatic cancer surgeries, including the Whipple procedure. The American Cancer Society recommends choosing a center that does at least 15 to 20 Whipple surgeries a year. Our surgeons do 70 to 80 a year.

Vascular surgeons: The pancreas is nestled among several large blood vessels that can be invaded or surrounded by pancreatic cancer. Our skilled vascular surgeons can often repair and rebuild these veins and arteries. This opens surgery to a wider group of patients than ever before.

Precise treatment plans

Our doctors have years of experience tailoring treatment plans to individual needs. They understand that pancreatic cancer treatments must be in the right order. Successful surgery may depend on having chemotherapy first, for example. We also make sure treatments won’t interfere with your chances to join a promising clinical trial.

Advanced therapies

Chemotherapy: Our medical oncologists (doctors who oversee chemotherapy) are experts at managing every stage of illness. Your oncologist will provide medications at the right time and in the right combination.

Radiation therapy: We provide the latest in image-guided radiation therapy to target your tumor while sparing healthy tissue. We are also among top cancer centers to offer radiation therapy during surgery when appropriate. 

Expert diagnoses

You can count on your diagnosis being right the first time.

Imaging: We offer CT scans specifically for pancreatic cancer. Our radiologists and other doctors have spent years refining these scans for accuracy.

Gastroenterology: We have Oregon’s most experienced gastroenterologists (digestive system doctors) in diagnosing pancreatic cancer. They do hundreds of endoscopic ultrasounds, a key test, each year.

mid crop - Dr. Kevin Billingsley, OHSU’s chief of surgical oncology (cancer surgery), leaning on a table in a lab smiling
Dr. Kevin Billingsley, OHSU’s chief of surgical oncology (cancer surgery), is passionate about fighting cancer.

Tumor boards

Our doctors and other experts hold two regular meetings, called tumor boards, to pool their expertise.

Pancreatic cancer tumor board: About 20 doctors gather every other week to discuss pancreatic cancer patients one by one. Surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists and others go over your test results together. They consider every option and clinical trial. Unlike at many other hospitals, this board focuses only on pancreatic cancer and related diseases.

Molecular tumor board: No other hospital offers this level of coordinated care. About two dozen doctors and researchers meet every three weeks to spend an hour discussing one pancreatic cancer patient. They pore over the tumor’s molecular traits, their databases and their latest findings. They explore every possible way to lengthen and improve the patient’s life.

Molly Barbar, RN, offers years of experience caring for pancreatic cancer patients.
Molly Barbar, RN, offers years of experience caring for pancreatic cancer patients.

Highly skilled nursing

Our experienced nurses provide information, answer your questions and arrange other services. They bring in social workers to help with financial issues, for instance, or help make sure depression isn’t left untreated. If you live far away, they can group appointments over one or two days. They can also help arrange care near your home. 

Surgical preparation

We know that good nutrition and exercise before surgery can speed recovery and lower risk. Our cancer dietitians and physical therapists work with patients to create a detailed “prehabilitation” plan.

Palliative care

Our palliative care team can help you and your family at any stage of serious illness. Our team includes cancer experts to help with symptoms, anxiety and difficult decisions. 

Research and clinical trials

A picture of Rosalie Sears, Ph.D., the co-director of the Brenden-Colson Center.
Rosalie Sears, Ph.D., is co-director of the Brenden-Colson Center.

Few centers in the world offer our hand-in-hand model for care and research. Doctors and researchers from the Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Care blend their expertise into patient care. The center is at the leading edge of pancreatic research, including:

  • Offering clinical trials to test new therapies at every stage of pancreatic cancer.
  • Testing treatments on 3D models and on lab-grown tissue from patient tumors.
  • Analyzing a tumor’s genetics and pathways to see if it can be matched to a medication.
  • Maintaining one of the world’s best biobanks of donated tissue and detailed data. This resource, created in 2006, gives researchers a gold mine of information.
  • Study innovations such as using smartphone technology to detect the first signs of cachexia, a wasting illness common among pancreatic cancer patients. 

Support services

The Knight Cancer Institute offers you a full menu of support services including:

  • Cancer social workers, who can help you with financial, housing or transportation issues.
  • Classes, including on chemotherapy and mindfulness.
  • Cancer registries, including for pancreatic cancer. These databases gather information and tissue samples from volunteers. Participants learn about the latest advances and events. They also play a vital role in research to help future patients.
  • Cancer nutrition services, with registered dietitians to help you before, during and after cancer treatment.
  • Acupuncture for cancer to help you manage side effects.

Location

Parking is free for patients and their visitors.

Center for Health & Healing Building 2
3485 S.W. Bond Ave.
Portland, OR 97239
Map and directions

Refer a patient

‘Don’t give up hope’

Xan Harwood-Karlik StoryCorps

Xan Harwood-Karlik, in his 20s when first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, talks with his OHSU doctor about living with recurrent pancreatic cancer in this StoryCorps conversation.

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Learn more about OHSU Knight Cancer Institute treatments:

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Blog: Learn about the latest findings on our Cancer Translated blog.

News: Read about research breakthroughs, patient care and many other topics on our OHSU News site.