Understanding the spread of a deadly malignancy

A diagram showing the avenues of metastasis from a primary pancreatic tumor including through the blood stream, lymphatic tissue, and perineural routes.  Pancreatic cancer can disseminate to many different organs, but typically metastasizes to the liver or lungs.
Pancreatic cancer spreads into the blood stream early in it's course. There are various ways in which pancreatic cancer cells can travel throughout the body.

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Pancreatic cancer is a devastating malignancy that very often is not detected until it has spread throughout the body.  For any hope of a cure, patients must undergo chemotherapy and surgical removal of the entire tumor.  Unfortunately, only about 1 in 5 patients who present with pancreatic cancer are candidates for surgery.  

Pancreatic surgery--even in the best of cases--is fraught with complications, due to the complexity of the surgery, and the role the pancreas plays in digestion.  For patients able to undergo removal of their tumor, 20-30% will experience recurrence of their tumor in the liver within six months.  

This "rapid recurrence" after surgery is demoralizing and a bad sign in terms of a patient's overall prognosis, and is poorly understood.  Our lab's goal is to improve the understanding of this phenomenon using our clinical expertise in the care of pancreatic surgery patients, translating this into lab-based models.