skip to Main Content

A Pancreatic Vaccine Clinical Trial Worked for Me

Pancreatic cancer survivor Kathleen Dowell, center right, with her treatment team including Dr. Elizabeth Jaffee (center left)
Kathleen Dowell (center), with her treatment team.

•    Whipple procedure to remove tumor
•    Chemotherapy and radiation after surgery
•    Clinical trial with a pancreatic cancer vaccine

My pancreatic cancer was found by accident in 1997, when I developed itching all over.

My doctor suspected a gallstone, so we scheduled gallbladder removal surgery at the local hospital. A complication from the gallbladder surgery meant I needed a second surgery, and that surgeon found pancreatic cancer.

My Treatment Begins

My doctor recommended that I go to Johns Hopkins for treatment, because doctors there had more experience with pancreatic cancer. Surgeon John Cameron removed my pancreas, part of my stomach, and several lymph nodes in a Whipple procedure; the lymph nodes tested positive for cancer.

I began chemotherapy with mitomycin-C, leucovorin, and a third drug, as well as radiation as soon as I recovered from surgery. I didn’t know much about pancreatic cancer but I had a bad feeling and was worried. Dr. Ross Donehower approached me with information about a pancreatic cancer vaccine clinical trial. I wanted to see my first grandchild grow up, so I decided to take a chance on the clinical trial run by Dr. Elizabeth Jaffee.

A Pancreatic Cancer Vaccine Trial

I joined the trial but soon developed a condition called TTP (thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura) which causes small blood clots throughout the body. My doctors did not think the pancreas vaccine cause the TTP but I had seizures and a stroke, so I was no longer able to be part of the clinical trial.

As it turned out those two doses were all I needed. I remain cancer-free, I enjoy my life and I have gotten to see my grandchildren grow up.

Back To Top