Patrick Swayze's widow, Lisa Niemi, is launching a new pancreatic cancer campaign to mark the first anniversary of the star’s death.

On Tuesday, Niemi kick-started the charity drive for Be a Hero in the “Fight Against Pancreatic Cancer: Know it. Fight it. End it.”

The campaign leads up to National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month in November and will consist of a series of videos and messages from Mrs. Swayze among others. Supporters are encouraged to visit www.knowitfightitendit.org to learn how they can take action and be a hero in the fight against pancreatic cancer, such as contacting their elected officials to encourage them to co-sponsor the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act, and uploading videos stories about the heroes in their life.

“My husband Patrick not only touched the lives of millions with his work, but also with the strength and courage he displayed during his fight against pancreatic cancer; he was a hero around the world. While it is bittersweet to mark this day, it is imperative that people understand the severity of this disease and the urgent need for increased research funding,” stated Lisa Niemi Swayze. “We must engage an army of heroes in the fight against pancreatic cancer so we can know it, fight it and end it.”

The five year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is estimated at just 6 percent; it is the only cancer of the top ten cancer killers that has a survival rate still in the single digits. This dismal survival rate is due in large part to the lack of scientific progress and the limited federal funding for the disease. Currently, only 2 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) annual research budget is dedicated to pancreatic cancer. As a result, there are no early detection methods and few effective treatment options for patients faced with this disease.

“Through the Be a Hero campaign and the ongoing efforts of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, our goal is to attract more advocates for this disease," stated Julie Fleshman, President and CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. “We need more heroes in this fight to ensure progress is made and to increase both private and federal funding for research; a major component of this effort is to call on Congress to pass the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act.”

The Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act will ensure scientific progress is made by providing the NCI with the tools and resources it needs to develop and implement a strategic plan for pancreatic cancer research so early detection methods and effective treatment options can be identified. The bill was introduced in the House as H.R. 745 by Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) and in the Senate as S. 3320 by Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

“During his nearly two year battle with pancreatic cancer, Patrick significantly increased the visibility of the disease by speaking publicly about the challenges he faced and the need to increase federal funding for cancer research,” added Fleshman. “We are thrilled to have Lisa carry on his legacy by joining the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network as a spokesperson, and hero, for this campaign and for our cause.”

To learn more about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, visit www.pancan.org.

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