Man Rings Victory Bell to Mark 5 Year Survival of Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer and 116th Chemotherapy Treatment

October 13, 2020

Earl Groce, 72, rings the bell to celebrate his five year survival of stage IV pancreatic cancer at the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The celebration also marked his 116th chemotherapy treatment.The five year survival rate for stage IV pancreatic cancer is only 3%, according to the American Cancer Society. Earl Groce, of Advance, now belongs to that 3%. In October of 2015 Groce learned that what he thought was just a herniated belly button was actually a Sister Mary Joseph nodule – a cancerous nodule that protrudes from the belly button. The cancer was diagnosed as stage IV pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to his lungs, liver and peritoneum.

The infusion nurses at Wake Forest Baptist’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, who have helped treat Groce since his diagnosis, celebrated his five year anniversary with him.“Not once did I think my protruding belly button was cancer, much less stage IV pancreatic cancer,” Groce said. “I’m thankful my daughter encouraged me to go to the doctor and she’s the one who found the experts at Wake Forest Baptist’s Comprehensive Cancer Center which led to the clinical trial I’ve taken part in. Very few people who get my diagnosis are where I am today and I owe that to my wonderful health care providers, my clinical trial and family and friends who have supported and encouraged me.”

Left to right: George Yacoub, M.D., assistant professor of hematology and oncology, Groce and Kristin Houston, P.A. Groce brought a cake as a ‘thank you’ to his care team.“In my career, I don’t recall anyone who has been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer living as long as Mr. Groce,” said George Yacoub, M.D., assistant professor of hematology and oncology at Wake Forest Baptist. “I’m so happy for him and his loved ones; he is a fighter and a beacon of hope. Due to the advancement of Mr. Groce’s cancer, operating wasn’t an option so he enrolled in a clinical trial that had targeted therapy aimed at cancer cell metabolism. We encourage clinical trials to see if a new treatment is more helpful than the standard of care regime and in his case, it has been hugely successful.”

Not only did Groce celebrate his five year anniversary, he also received his 116th chemotherapy treatment on the same day.

"Being on chemo for this duration isn’t typical for patients with pancreatic cancer, since unfortunately most patients have a much shorter survival, but Mr. Groce continues to tolerate treatment quite well and it has provided him with more time and maintained his quality of life," Yacoub said.

Wake Forest Baptist’s Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the area and one of only 51 in the country. Patients who receive care at an NCI-designated cancer center can improve their long-term survival rates by up to 25%, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Photo credit: Wake Forest Baptist Health

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Media contact: Eryn Johnson,, 336-905-1442.