The pancreas is attached to the small intestine behind your stomach and is crucial for proper digestion. Enzymes made by the pancreas are very important for getting nutrients, calories and vitamins into our bodies; they are the heart of proper digestion and absorption. In people with CF, sticky mucus blocks ducts in the pancreas and prevents enzymes from reaching the small intestine to digest food. This problem, called “pancreatic insufficiency,” affects about 90 percent of people with CF.
For more information on how the pancreas is affected in CF, read about the digestive tract.
We're funding research to develop a non-porcine enzyme replacement therapy with improved activity. This will offer an alternative to people with CF with pancreatic insufficiency who need to take enzymes.
We have also helped organize a group of gastrointestinal (GI) specialists to focus on the treatment and research of GI issues in CF. Called the Developing Innovative Gastroenterology Specialty Training program, or DIGEST, this group of GI doctors is developing best practices and gaining an improved understanding of abdominal symptoms to lead to better treatments.
The GALAXY trial, the largest-ever study of GI symptoms in CF, was designed and conducted by DIGEST doctors to gauge which symptoms affect people with CF the most. Researchers are using these results to inform and prioritize future studies, including research to address:
- Adult malnutrition
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
- The use of proton pump inhibitors in CF
In this video, Meghana N. Sathe, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and co-director of the pediatric CF center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center/Children's Health, explains why people with CF can have problems with nutrition and gastrointestinal (GI) issues and discusses the research underway.
Various medications are currently available to help relieve the various symptoms associated with pancreatic insufficiency.