Jordan Winter: Doctor, Scientist & Project Purple Runner

Dr. Jordan Winter is always ready to face a challenge in life. Whether he is talking about his career or his upcoming marathon, he trusts his instincts and is unafraid of taking calculated risks. He knows when it comes to pancreatic cancer, the potential benefit to science and his patients is worth leaving no stone unturned. Just as he gives his all in the lab and in his medical practice, Dr. Winter is giving every effort to fundraise and run to help beat pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Jordan Winter
Dr. Jordan Winter

When Dr. Winter attended medical school, he could have chosen among many different specialties. He could have chosen a field where he would have seen very few patients with terminal illnesses. Instead, he opted to specialize in treating those who face particularly difficult odds. He treats those who have been diagnosed with pancreas cancer.

While some may think that working in this field might be emotionally difficult, Dr. Winter is inspired by his patients and is hopeful that his contributions will make a difference for his current and future patients. He explains, “I am motivated to have as big an impact as I can as a clinician and a scientist. I was very drawn to a field where the challenges were the greatest. Pancreas cancer is a very complex disease. If I chose a disease that had a high cure rate, it would be gratifying on a clinical level, but there wouldn’t be a need to do the research.”

In his current position at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Dr. Winter is both a surgeon and a scientist. As a student, Dr. Winter was mentored by two pancreas cancer surgeons who taught him the techniques involved in performing the Whipple and other related surgeries. While he is a skilled surgeon, Dr. Winter truly enjoys the emotional aspect of patient care. He explains, “I find it very natural to take care of patients with pancreas cancer. It suits my personality. I really cherish the role that I have as a pancreas cancer surgeon. There is an element of comforting the patient, going through the journey with the patient.”

Dr, Winter presenting at the pancreatic cancer symposium.
Dr, Winter presenting at the pancreatic cancer symposium.

While the Whipple is known for being an extremely complex procedure, Dr. Winter feels one of the most important aspects of his job is to be able to connect in conversation with his patients and their families. He acknowledges that receiving a diagnosis of pancreas cancer is extremely difficult for both patient and family.  Some days, the most difficult part of his job is speaking to a family about their loved one, and not necessarily the 8-hour surgery he performed. Surgical skill is very important, of course, but he believes the patient-doctor relationship is equally important.

Pancreas Cancer Researcher

In addition to treating patients, Dr. Winter is deeply involved in research into pancreas cancer. “I try and focus on areas of research that I think are important and innovative but are understudied,” he explains. While many are focused on three aspects of research- mutations, targeted therapy and immunotherapy- Dr. Winter has chosen to take his work in different directions. He believes that scientists need to broaden the focus of their research in order to ensure they are not experiencing tunnel vision. “If they turn out to be wrong,” he says, “It sets us back 10 years and our patients cannot afford it.”

Dr. Brody and Dr. Winter in the Brody Research Lab.
Dr. Brody and Dr. Winter in the Brody Research Lab.

Current Research

Dr. Winter is currently involved in several different creative and novel research projects. For example, he is currently trying to learn how pancreas cancer cells are able to adapt so that they may survive in ‘desert-like’ conditions. He explains. “Pancreas cancer has some of the most extreme conditions it has to live in. The cells are starved of nutrients and oxygen, yet they are able to survive and thrive.” Dr. Winter believes that if he can understand how pancreas cancer cells adapt to these extreme conditions, he can understand the pathways they depend upon in order to live.


Dr. Winter is also attempting to answer a simple but very important question that no one has ever looked into before: Is it possible to spread pancreas cancer cells by operating on patients? This study was directly inspired by his patients’ questions about their illness and treatment. Essentially, surgeons will take cytology samples before beginning a pancreas surgery, and then again both during and after the operation. If the samples were negative before the surgery, but then show up during surgery, this will demonstrate that it is possible to spread cancer cells via surgery.

In addition, the study will investigate a potential therapeutic intervention. One third of subjects will receive surgery with no intervention. One third will receive a high volume wash with a saline solution. The final third will receive a wash diluted with distilled water. The patients will be followed and Dr. Winter and his research team will look at survival rates and recurrence patterns over the years following surgery.

Dr. Winter Runs for Project Purple

Dr. Winter, a self-described ‘casual jogger’, knew he wanted to run a marathon someday. He also knew which marathon he wanted to run: the New York City Marathon. Though he now lives in Philadelphia, he did his fellowship training one block from First Avenue. “I am 41 years old and I am not getting any younger. Before the window closes, I really wanted to run the New York City marathon,” he explains. Shut out of the race by the lottery system, he knew he could get guaranteed entry through a charity.

Dr. Winter with his team at a pancreatic cancer charity fundraising run.
Dr. Winter with his team at a pancreatic cancer charity fundraising run.

Dr. Winter has type 1 diabetes, and though it would have been natural for him to raise money for juvenile diabetes, he is extremely invested in the pancreas cancer mission. “There are tons of incredible causes, but there is no cause that hit home as much as pancreas cancer,” he adds. His wife looked at the list of charities and found Project Purple. Dr. Winter had the opportunity to speak to the charity founder, Dino Verrelli, and he knew that any money he raised would go to support worthy scientific studies. “I know some of the scientists Project Purple has funded before and I have incredible respect for them. I know the money will go to good use.”


In the end, everything he does is motivated by his patients. “I really admire people like my patients who have experienced pancreatic cancer and have fought it. It is the fight of a lifetime and nothing I do comes close to that degree of challenge. My patients are my heroes. Watching them and their families fight against this seeming insurmountable challenge is quite inspiring.”

Please support Dr. Winter’s Project Purple fundraiser by making a donation at the following link:

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