Pancreatic Cancer Survivors
Dr. Robert Nagourney
Rational Therapeutics

The stories of pancreatic cancer survivors on this page are excerpted from those of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer that received customized chemotherapy guided by the tumor functional screening methodology used by Dr. Robert Nagourney of Rational Therapeutics.  A more detailed discussion of standard of care chemotherapy and of the customized chemotherapy guided by Dr. Nagourney’s technology can be found on our Cancer Therapy Options page.

One of our recommended Right Doctors, Dr. Keith Block uses the services of Rational Therapeutics to develop his customized integrated therapy tailored to each cancer patient he treats.  Dr. Block has this to say about Dr. Nagourney:
“Dr. Robert Nagourney has earned international recognition as the most prominent leader in the field of chemosensitivity testing.  For over two decades, my medical staff and I have included his chemosensitivity assay as an invaluable tool in helping us select the optimal chemotherapy regimen for our patients. A more primitive proliferative assay led many to reject such testing early on. However, Dr. Nagourney's pioneering work, developing instead a more prominent apoptotic (programmed cell death) assay, has benefitted innumerable cancer patients and played a pivotal role in their treatment response and treatment outcome. I believe all patients deserve the quality of information that Robert's testing provides, and that in the future, oncology practices will routinely incorporate such testing into the optimal care for patients.”

And now for the Stories of Pancreatic Cancer Survivors.

Pancreatic Cancer Survivors-Steve
Pancreatic Cancer-Stage IV

In April 2010, a then 59-year-old Steve was experiencing mild diaphragmatic pain. He began treating it with aspirin, but the pain continued to linger. A month went by without any change, so his physician ordered “a battery of tests,” including a CT scan, to determine the cause. His diagnosis wasn’t good. Steve had Stage IV pancreatic cancer.

“Since the outcome of this type of cancer is poor, I was somewhat discouraged,” said Steve. “I wanted to know what the timeline might be for survival, so I could get my affairs in order.” Sadly, his physician gave him only six months to live. His wife, Joannie, began gathering information and asking people for referrals. Her co-worker recommended Robert Nagourney, MD, medical director at Rational Therapeutics. Her mother had been a patient of his and she spoke very highly of him. They immediately made an appointment. “He was very honest about my case,” said Steve.  “He explained the process he follows, the procedures I would go through and how the results would affect my therapy.” Depending on the results of Steve’s chemosensitivity testing, Dr. Nagourney would identify the best drug or combination of drugs to kill his specific cancer cells. “Dr. Nagourney made no promises, but told me he had success in similar cases.”

Before they made a decision about treatment, Steve and Joannie decided to look at several options. “We went to a local oncologist. When we said we had seen Dr. Nagourney, she was not familiar with him. After we explained his process, she said we were wasting our money, his method was out of date, and I should get my affairs in order.

“Next was UCLA. The doctor was very upfront. He said he had little to offer because of the type of cells involved and the conventional therapy he would use did not have a particularly good outcome."

“Our last stop was at City of Hope. Again, the doctor was very good. However, he said he had nothing but conventional therapy to offer and that I might as well stay with Dr. Nagourney, since it was closer to home.”

Steve and Joannie decided to go with Dr. Nagourney’s course of treatment. It made the most sense to them and has been the right decision. “It was nice to be offered some hope and a realistic representation of my chances of survival,” said Steve.

It has been five years since the diagnosis and they are enjoying their lives together. “We feel completely blessed for every minute,” said Joannie.  “In the beginning it was not a good prognosis, but things did turn around and I’m here today to talk about it,” said Steve.

NOTE:  The above account was excerpted and summarized from

Pancreatic Cancer Survivors-Laura
Pancreatic Cancer-Stage IV

Laura says she will have many years of play with her five grandchildren because she is now "FREE of Stage IV pancreatic ". At the beginning of my diagnosis, I was told I had 2 – 6 months to live!

After 4 1/2 years of different chemotherapies, I was told by my long time Integrative Cancer Consultant, Dr. Mark Renneker, to seek out Dr. Anton Bilchik in Santa Monica, California for an operation that could remove what cancer was left from my pancreas. At the same time, Dr. Renneker told me to arrange with Dr. Robert Nagourney to do an EVA-PCD functional profile.

I had never heard of this procedure but was thrilled at the idea. After surgery, a portion of my tumor was submitted to Dr. Nagourney for analysis. He exposed my unique tumor cells to different chemotherapy drugs and combinations. He identified several active treatment options. After a CT scan and a CA19-9 blood test, my husband and I decided to meet with Dr. Nagourney in person to review the results. He identified the Carboplatin plus Gemcitabine regimen as being the best chemotherapy treatment for me.

Back in my home town of Santa Barbara, California, I have received 5 cycles of this regime. Only one more to go!!! My latest CT scan from just this week revealed NO more Cancer and my CA19-9 blood levels are normal! I am free to continue my life free from monthly treatments. I am also free to continue my life's work with new babies and their families. AND, I am FREE to hug my grandchildren and watch them grow!!

I tell everyone I meet about Dr Nagourney’s innovative work and how the EVA-PCD analysis could have saved me many years of chemotherapy that was not designed just for me!!!

NOTE:  The above account was excerpted and summarized from

Pancreatic Cancer Survivors-Ken
Pancreatic Cancer-Stage IV

In February 2011, Ken was experiencing pain in the area just above the lumbar curve in his spine. He tried treating it with lifestyle adjustments and over-the-counter analgesics.  The pain persisted, so the following month he saw his primary health care provider, who ordered an x-ray.  The x-ray revealed minor bone spurring, but nothing that should have caused such persistent, annoying pain.

After two months of seeing a chiropractor and an acupuncturist without getting relief, Ken returned to his nurse practitioner in early June and told her he now sometimes felt pain in his abdomen.  She ordered an abdominal ultrasound, which revealed that Ken’s pain was caused by a tennis-ball sized pancreatic tumor and five growths in his liver.  An endoscopic exam with biopsy confirmed that Ken had Stage IV pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to his liver.

Ken made an appointment with Dr. Robert Nagourney, after learning about his work from a friend in the health care system.  During the initial consultation, Dr. Nagourney told Ken that his statistical survival rate was 10 to 30 percent and that he might not be alive in nine months.  He also explained how Rational Therapeutics customizes cancer treatment by beginning with a chemosensitivity test, called an assay.  They introduce a piece of one of the patient’s tumors to several chemicals to see which ones work best on that patient’s cancer. Even with the insights provided by this test, Ken was looking at a coin-flip chance of survival.

Fully understanding the seriousness of his Stage IV pancreatic cancer prognosis, the following week Ken underwent a laparoscopic procedure to obtain a viable piece of one of his liver tumors for the Rational Therapeutics laboratory.  The assay test revealed that his cancer was sensitive to three drugs.

He received his first chemotherapy infusion the last week of June.  Unfortunately, his pancreatic tumor was quite large, and its location near his small intestine meant that it was pinching off the intestine at the duodenum and preventing the flow of digesting food. Intestinal bypass surgery was required so that he would be able to eat. By August, Ken had lost 60 pounds but was eating and had resumed his infusions.

Ken completed six cycles of chemotherapy.  His tumor marker (a protein in the blood revealing the cancer’s presence in the body) was 208 before starting treatment. By November, it had fallen to 44 and then in December, it was a normal read!  A follow-up CAT showed that his tumors were gone, and in January 2012, Ken was switched to a lighter regimen to finish off any remaining cancerous cells. 

So far, Ken has regained 35 of the 60 pounds he had initially lost, feels great, and is very glad he chose to have a chemosensitivity assay test before beginning his pancreatic cancer treatment.

NOTE:  The above account was excerpted and summarized from

Additional Pancreatic Survivor Stories

For additional pancreatic cancer survivor stories see Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer Survivors-Patients of Dr. Keith Block

For cancer survivor stores of people with other types of cancer see our Cancer Survivor Stories page