The rare form of pancreatic cancer that killed Steve Jobs ran a predictable course, experts tell the Wall Street Journal. While 80% of the 40,000 Americans who get pancreatic cancer annually die within a year of their diagnosis, Jobs had a neuroendocrine pancreatic tumor, a type that accounts for just 5% of pancreatic cancer cases and typically kills its victims in six to eight years. "The two different types have fairly dramatically different clinical behaviors," said one doctor, and often a neuroendocrine tumor "will grow more slowly and patients can do quite well, sometimes for several years."
Jobs initially reported his weight loss in 2004 was due to a "hormonal imbalance," but later said his condition was "more complex" and took a leave of absence. He had the tumor removed that year and called the procedure successful. "If you think it is confined to the pancreas, there is quite a good hope that the patient has gotten rid of it once and for all," said a pancreatic cancer expert. But if the cancer has spread to the liver, "you can't ultimately cure it. The more tumor you remove, you buy time for the patient." Jobs had a liver transplant in 2009, but experts say that was an unusual move for patients with his disease, partly because drugs used to prevent rejection of the transplant suppress the immune system and cancers can grow quickly afterward.