Pancreatic cancer John Couvillon Howard Young Mark Gelinas

From left, the late John Couvillon, founder of  the Destroy Pancreatic Cancer Foundation who died of the disease in May; Howard Young, a pancreatic cancer survivor who now heads the foundation and foundation member Mark Gelinas, a Sandy Springs resident.

A Dunwoody-based nonprofit with a goal of funding advanced research and developing clinical trials leading to earlier detection and improved treatment of the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. was launched in September 2016.

Leadership of the Destroy Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, founded by the late John Couvillon, a Buckhead resident who died in May after a three-year battle with the disease, has been assumed by Buckhead resident Howard Young, a 15-year pancreatic cancer survivor.

According to Young, after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and undergoing surgery in 2014, Couvillon told his surgeon, Dr. Douglas Evans, he wanted to help in this fight against the disease “and we are proud to see John’s initial vision through.”

Young said the foundation has assembled three of the preeminent pancreatic cancer physicians in the world for this program.

In addition to Evans, chairman of the department of surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin, they include Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, FACP, physician in chief and director of translational research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, and Dr. W. Perry Ballard III, cofounder of the Atlanta Piedmont Cancer Institute, a certified member of the MD Anderson Cancer Network.

In addition to funding clinical trials scheduled for Atlanta, Milwaukee and Phoenix, Destroy Pancreatic Cancer is also committed to providing sufferers (those diagnosed with the disease) and survivors “hope and a plan,” the official motto of the foundation, to counter the stigma surrounding the disease, which offers little promise of a cure.

Michael Broxterman is the foundation’s vice chairman and a close friend and business partner of Couvillon. He said when people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which kills 50,000 people annually, “there is a 70 percent chance they will die within the first year of diagnosis.”

“In addition, there is a 90 percent chance they will die within five years,” he said. “There is a very small survival rate for pancreatic cancer, compared to breast or prostate cancer, where great strides have been made in the treatment of both (of) these cancers.”

In addition, not only is the pancreas located in a very difficult area of the body to reach, pancreatic cancer doesn’t exhibit symptoms until it is too late.

“The disease is very aggressive and occurs in mostly healthy people,” he said.

For more information on the foundation, visit www.destroypancreaticcancer.org.

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