One Tough Jobs: "Steve" Dies at 56

Apple founder has died

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) He changed the world as we know it. That sounds dramatic, but Steve Jobs had an impact on the world that was nothing less than monumental.

Apple, Inc. announced today that Jobs has died after gallantly, heroically and gracefully battling pancreatic cancer for seven years. The co-founder, chairman and former chief executive of Apple Inc. was 56.

"We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today," Apple, Inc. said in a brief statement.

"Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve."

The writers of an article in Wired magazine characterized his contributions beautifully. "He made things we absolutely wanted, long before we even knew we wanted them. Jobs’ utter dedication to how people think, touch, feel and interact with machines dictated even the smallest detail of the computers Apple built and the software it wrote"

dailyRx publisher and CEO, Donald Hackett, worked with Jobs during the early days of Apple and remembers the excitement of being on what he knew was a technological frontier. "Jobs was one of the most intense men I have ever known. You could feel the genius. And yet he was so down to earth and approachable."

Pancreatic Cancer

Jobs illness was ironically as complex and unusual as he was. He had a rare form of pancreatic cancer that wasn't a typical case of the disease.

It has been confirmed that in 2004 Jobs underwent treatment for a pancreatic neuroendocrine islet cell tumor. While the details of his treatment were largely shrouded in mystery, it's been speculated that he had the tumor surgically removed from his pancreas in what's known as a Whipple procedure. 

The tumor is located in the pancreas, but is different from the pancreatic adenocarcinoma that is commonly referred to as “pancreatic cancer.”

Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is infamous for its mortality, with average survival from the time of diagnosis being about 3-5 months. Less than 5 percent of patients are alive 5 years after diagnosis. Jobs' tumor grew slowly and became more treatable. That's why he was able to fight it for nearly seven years.

Jobs' pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer is exceedingly rare. Only about 3,000 people a year get a neuroendocrine tumor in the U.S., compared to over 37,000 who get  pancreatic adenocarcinoma cancer. His tumor grew slowly and it's thought to have became more treatable over time.

Seeking treatment

It's believed that Jobs underwent several procedures to stay alive.

An experimental treatment not currently approved by the FDA - peptide receptor radionuclide therapy - kills the tumor cells and can extend life by several years and increase quality of life. Jobs is thought to have had this performed in Switzerland, as the treatment isn't available in the United States.

Dr. Nicholas Nissen, assistant surgical director of the Multi-Organ Transplant Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, stated that in the case of a neuroendocrine tumor, it is possible that a liver transplant might halt the spread of the disease if the metastasis was confined only to the liver, but it carries risks.

Dr. William Chapman, transplantation chief at Washington University in St. Louis, added that he believed it would be very difficult to cure a neuroendocrine tumor with a transplant, as the cancer frequently recurs. In addition, Dr. Nissen said that the immunosuppressant drugs that are required with any organ transplant could potentially increase the risk of the cancer returning, as well as the greatly increased risk for infection.

So although Mr. Jobs' physicians may have decided that a liver transplant would be a good option in his particular case, transplantation of an organ that has metastasis is not usually performed because of the risk of rejection and infection.

Several other studies have noted that organ transplantation alone can lead to increased risk of a primary cancer occurring, such as skin cancer and bladder cancer.

A visionary

We may never know the exact nature of Jobs' disease or the extent of his treatments. What we do know is that he fought this cancer with a valor one would expect of an exceptional human being.

The visionary founder of a company that continues to evolve the way we communicate and interact with the world left this earth too soon.

His products and the technology he launched will long outlive him, as will the legacy of the man himself.

Don Hackett says it in a manner befitting the simple ingenuity of Steve Jobs, "He had style."

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 20, 2011
Last Updated:
October 6, 2011