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See You Later, Steve Jobs

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The resignation of Steve Jobs from his post as CEO of Apple has caused speculation about his health, and has led to a renewed interest in pancreatic cancer in general. After years of fighting pancreatic cancer and getting noticeably thinner, Jobs went on leave in January for an undisclosed medical problem, reports Reuters' Anna Yukhananov. He said this week that he could no longer be the company's chief executive, but gave no details as to the state of his health. Jobs suffers from a rare form of pancreatic cancer — caused by an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor — and the methods used to fight it often cause a great deal of suffering, Yukhananov says. Jobs was reported to have undergone a liver transplant in 2009 to fight the spread of the cancer, but such a procedure is experimental for this cancer and can itself cause further spread of the disease. Jobs has never publicly stated why he had the transplant. According to research done by a team at the University of California, San Francisco, as many as 80 percent of patients who get liver transplants for this kind of pancreatic cancer live for at least five years, Yukhananov says. A recent study showed that about 75 percent of patients who undergo the transplant see their cancer return within two to five years in the liver or other organs, she adds. Further, the immunosuppressant drugs patients take after a liver transplant can also make it easier for the disease to spread as the body is less resistant to the cancer cells. Although neuroendocrine tumors are more easily treated, less aggressive, and rarer than other forms of pancreatic cancer, they recur in about half of patients after surgical removal, Yukhananov adds.

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