West Windsor Township Police Department officers with Kerry McKean Kelly (purple), co-founder of Kelly’s Heroes, Police Chief Robert Garofalo, and Lt. Mark Lee.

West Windsor Township and the West Windsor Police Department are going purple for a purpose this month in observance of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. The department’s patrol vehicles are sporting purple ribbons to raise awareness of one of the deadliest forms of cancer.

“Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death and is on pace to move up to second as early as next year,” said Mayor Hemant Marathe. “The five-year survival rate is just 9 percent, and pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers in which overall deaths are climbing rather than declining. We are committed to joining with our community partners to raise awareness. This is personal since three of my friends were diagnosed with this disease in the past two years.”

Marathe and Police Chief Robert Garofalo have teamed up with Kelly’s Heroes: Fighting Pancreatic Cancer, an East Windsor-based 501c3, to raise attention.

“Increased awareness is important for improving the future of pancreatic cancer,” said Garofalo. “West Windsor has a longstanding tradition of passing a proclamation in observance of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month—now we’re taking that message to the streets via our patrol cars.”

Kelly’s Heroes is a member of the World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition, which is composed of 80 nonprofit advocacy organizations from 30 countries. Its efforts culminate on Nov. 21—World Pancreatic Cancer Day—with outreach activities to educate people about the symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Early detection is critical to diagnosing the disease in its early stages, when treatment including surgery provides the best chance of survival.

“We appreciate the exposure West Windsor is providing to the cause,” said Kerry McKean Kelly, co-founder of Kelly’s Heroes. The nonprofit is inspired by her husband Steve Kelly, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2015 at age 55.

“If there’s one thing we could impart on people during November, it’s to know the symptoms of pancreatic cancer—including abdominal pain, jaundice, upper back pain, rapid weight loss and rapid-onset diabetes. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, listen to your body, see your medical provider and ask them about pancreatic cancer.”

West Windsor is playing an important role in advancing the cause of pancreatic cancer. Erytech, an international biopharmaceutical company, recently opened a new manufacturing facility on Alexander Road, where it is producing an individualized potential new therapy which encapsulates drugs in red blood cells. Erytech is conducting clinical trials of this potential new pancreatic cancer treatment across the United States and parts of Europe.