Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of the pancreas-a large organ that lies behind the stomach. The pancreas secretes enzymes that aid digestion and hormones that help regulate the metabolism of sugars. Pancreatic cancer often has a poor prognosis, even when diagnosed early, and can spread rapidly. Because symptoms tend not to appear until the disease has progressed, the cancer is rarely detected in its early stages, which is a major reason why it's a leading cause of cancer death. Though its risk factors include obesity, smoking, and old age, it is most often associated with a family history of pancreatic cancer and a genetic predisposition to it. This is why the latest genetic research offers such hope for a breakthrough. If the gene or genes responsible for pancreatic cancer can be fixed or replaced with healthy versions, this deadly disease may finally be vanquished.