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Lions hear from Sun BioPharma founder on cancer treatments

By Staff | Aug 21, 2018

PHOTO PROVIDED Dr. Michael Cullen, founder and chief executive officer of Sun BioPharma, was the guest speaker for the Aug. 15 dinner meeting of the Sanibel-Captiva Lions Club.

The featured speaker at the Sanibel-Captiva Lions Club’s dinner meeting, held on Aug. 15 in the Founders Room at The Community House, wants everyone to know more about cancer.

“Getting cancer is a big scary deal, but there are things people should know before they make decisions,” Dr. Michael Cullen, founder and chief executive officer of Sun BioPharma, said.

Cullen’s company specializes in cancer drug therapies and clinical trials.

His talk, titled “Pancreatic Cancer & Clinical Trials: Information for Patients & Families,” served as a primer for the journey through cancer treatment and promoted the advantages for clinical trials.

“If you get a new diagnosis and start standard treatment, clinical trials for new drug therapies may not be available to you,” he said. “Standard treatment is fine for many cancers. But for pancreatic cancer, it is less amenable.”

Cullen cited statistics for success rates of a variety of cancers.

“The five-year survival rate for women with breast cancer is now almost 99 percent,” he said. “Lung cancer survival, which used to be in the single digits, is now up to 18 percent.”

“Pancreatic cancer is the reason I am not spending my retirement years fishing,” Cullen added. “Its survival rate is only 8 percent.”

Sun BioPharma has just opened a study of its lead drug compound, which is designed for patients with previously untreated metastatic pancreatic cancer. He said new trials such as this one are critical.

“Because the incidence of pancreatic cancer is going up steadily,” Cullen said. “Smoking, drinking, genetics and diabetes are all contributors – it’s just going the wrong way.”

He asserted that pancreatic cancer can be successfully treated surgically, but not medically.

“(Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader) Ginsberg had been diagnosed with colon cancer. Pancreatic cancer was found, incidentally, during her follow-up testing for colon cancer,” Cullen said. “The pancreatic tumor that they found was still in early stages, so surgery provided the cure. If she hadn’t had colon cancer, she would have died from pancreatic cancer.”

He added that “standard treatments for some cancers are very effective, but for pancreatic cancer, my top recommendation for patients is a clinical trial.”

For more information on cancer and treatments, Cullen recommended visiting clinicaltrials.gov, cancer.net and pancan.org. For pancreatic cancer research, he suggested the National Comprehensive Cancer Network at www.nccn.org and the Lustgarten Foundation at www.lustgarten.org.

The next meeting will be held on Sept. 19 at The Community House, at 2173 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel. The guest speaker will be Jan Manarite, the executive vice president of Prostate Cancer International.

For more information, visit online at sanibelcaptivalions.org.