Patrick Swayze’s Pancreatic Cancer Spreads

Gaunt Celebrity Patrick Swayze, Suffering from Terminal Pancreatic Cancer, in Los Angeles, California in Late April

A gaunt-looking Patrick Swayze, 55, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late January, was spotted on April 25 by paparazzi at a convenience store near his Lake View Terrace, California ranch near Los Angeles. The cancer-stricken actor has been receiving chemotherapy at Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto under the care of oncologist Dr. George Fisher. While Swayze initially responded well to chemo, the cancer has metastasized and he’s undergone emergency surgery at Stanford to remove part of his stomach.


Hollywood Actor Patrick Swayze, Suffering from Terminal Pancreatic Cancer, in Los Angeles, California in Late April

According to The Daily Express, the “Dirty Dancing” star has now reportedly made a living will and transferred his property into a trust fund for his wife, Lisa Niemi. The couple has been married for 32 years, having first met in 1970 when 14-year-old Lisa was taking dance lessons from Swayze’s mother, Patsy Yvonne, in Houston, Texas, where Swayze was born and raised. The National Enquirer, which first broke the story, wrote that Swayze “wanted to make sure everything was in place in the event that his health began to fail quickly and he couldn’t take care of things.” As part of his final preparations and as related by a Swayze friend, Swayze told his wife: “I will always love you and can’t imagine how my life would have been without you.”


Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in the Blockbuster Movie, Dirty Dancing

Swayze’s big break came in the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing;” he was nominated for a Golden Globe award for his role as dance instructor Johnny Castle. When the movie’s co-star, Jennifer Grey, learned of Swayze’s pancreatic cancer, she told People magazine: “I wish him all my love and I have great faith that he is a fighter.” Original plans for the low-budget film were to show it for one weekend in theaters and then send it to video, but the movie was a surprise hit, nationally and internationally. As of 2007, it had earned over $300 million worldwide and was the first movie to sell one million video copies.

“Ghost,” a 1990 movie in which Swayze co-starred with Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, was Swayze’s biggest hit. People chose the actor in 1991 as the “Sexiest Man Alive.”

On March 12, the Enquirer ran photos of Swayze smoking a cigarette as he left the Stanford Cancer Center before boarding his plane at the San Carlos Airport. Swayze has smoked three packs a day for years. Smoking is a major pancreatic cancer risk factor; smokers are twice as likely to develop the disease than are non-smokers. About one-third of pancreatic cancer cases are believed to be smoking-related.

Patrick Swaye, Named People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive in 1991

Although Swayze’s spokesperson has insisted that Swayze continues to work on projects, OK! magazine reports that the actor withdrew from “Fired Up,” a romantic comedy, in February. A spokesperson for the movie, which was filming in Los Angeles in March, reported that Swayze has been replaced in the role of a gay cheerleading instructor by actor John Michael Higgins. One source commented: “Everyone is trying to be optimistic and pretending that his life is continuing as normal but unfortunately it’s not.”


Dr. George Fisher, Treating Actor Patrick Swayze for Pancreatic Cancer

OK! also reported that Swayze is taking an experimental drug, vatalanib, specifically because his cancer is advanced and surgical removal of the pancreas is not an option. Swayze’s oncologist, Dr. George Fisher, is conducting a clinical trial involving use of vatalanib in conjunction with Novartis, a pharmaceutical company, which we confirmed at The only patients eligible for the experimental treatment are those with inoperable pancreatic cancer which has metastasized to other organs.

Swayze may have had pancreatic symptoms last year in Chicago, while filming the pilot for “The Beast,” a TV show about an FBI agent which A&E has shown interest in picking up. The actor was taken to a hospital after spitting up blood. Filming wrapped up just before Christmas.


Location of the Pancreas in the Human Body

Statistics from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network indicate that over 37,000 cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed each year, with 33,000 deaths annually from the disease. The prognosis is grim: A high mortality rate of almost 90 percent makes pancreatic cancer the deadliest of all cancers. Average life expectancy following a pancreatic cancer diagnosis is only six to nine months. Because of the pancreas’ location in the abdomen, it’s difficult to diagnose early cases of pancreatic cancer; the disease is often not diagnosed until it’s spread to other parts of the body. Less than five percent of pancreatic cancer patients survive more than five years after initial diagnosis.

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Photo credits: Globe Photos, People magazine and Stanford University.

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