New treatment at TGen Phoenix saves cancer patient's life

New treatment saves cancer patient's life.

A Phoenix man is beating the odds of survival after getting the diagnosis no patient wants to hear.

Doctors told Phil Zeblisky he had pancreatic cancer, the third-largest cancer killer in the United States.

But his treatment could mean a breakthrough for future patients.

"It's really kind of scary," Phil told 12News during a recent interview. "I started having symptoms in April of 2014, but pancreatic cancer is so hard to diagnose that it literally took the doctors six weeks to figure out what it was that I had."

Researchers say most pancreatic cancer patients only have a five-year survival timeline.

For Zeblisky, it's one he's determined to conquer forever. By the time doctors discovered the tumors in Phil's body, they had grown so large it ruled out the possibility of surgical removal. This can mean life or death for anyone with pancreatic cancer.

"Once it actually starts to become evidence and once it is diagnosed, people only live six to nine months," Zeblisky said.

His wife Kathy, a medical librarian, discovered a clinical trial at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, a non-profit dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life-changing results.

"From lab to clinic, on average it will take 10-14 years to have a drug that's approved by the FDA," Dr. Haiyong Han said.

Han is an associate professor from the Clinical Translational Research Division at TGen. He is in charge of the basic research unit for pancreatic cancer at TGen. His research involves the identification of new treatments.

"I believe Phil has the pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas,” Han said, “and this is the most lethal form of pancreatic cancer and that's the one we've researched the most."

For Zeblisky, this clinical trial was a ray of hope, and six months later, his cancer was nowhere to be found.

"I think that there is a lot of reasons for hope,” Zeblisky said "When you get a diagnosis like pancreatic cancer, you start living for today, so it has definitely been transformative."

It's been two years since Phil's diagnosis, and since then, his tumors have shrunk enough for doctors to remove them.

He hopes that one day hopes, researchers will find a cure for all forms of cancer. For now, he’s happy they were able to treat his cancer. 

Copyright 2016 KPNX


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