Apple co-founder and longtime CEO Steve Jobs died last week from respiratory arrest related a recurrence of pancreatic cancer that spread to other organs, according to a copy of his death certificate made public yesterday.
The certificate says Jobs had a metastatic pancreas neuroendocrine tumor for the past five years, according to reports by Bloomberg News and The Associated Press. Jobs was 56 when he died Wednesday, Oct. 5, at his home in Palo Alto, Calif. Neither Apple nor his family disclosed the cause of his death and most of the details of his failing health over the past several years are still not publicly known.
Jobs was buried Friday in a small private ceremony. The arrangements and the location were not made public.
There are two main types of pancreatic cancer and Jobs suffered from the rarer form, according to Dr. Mansur Shomali, with Union Memorial Hospital's Diabetes & Endocrine Center, quoted in a Baltimore Sun story. Shomali says the pancreas has two parts, the exocrine, which makes digestive enzymes, and the endocrine, which makes cells that produce hormone such as insulin. These endocrine cells can cluster and form tumors, which can be benign or cancerous.
Exocrine cancer is the more common, and more deadly, form of pancreatic cancer. Shomali has seen only one patient in the past year with the form of cancer that killed Jobs. When caught early, the tumors are treatable, he says. Some tumors can be very aggressive but most are benign and don't spread or metastasize, according the Baltimore Sun story. The survival rates for this rarer form of pancreatic are "many times the survival rates" for the more common exocrine pancreatic cancer, according to the Sun.
Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004 and spoke of a successful treatment and remission during a moving and unusually personal speech to the 2005 graduating class at Stanford University. [see also "Steve Jobs and Life in the Shadow of Death"]
Details of Jobs treatment are not publicly known, including why he had a 2009 liver transplant, according to the Baltimore Sun story, which reported that Shomali says he has never had a patient who required one.
Jobs took a third, and final, medical leave of absence from Apple in early 2011, handing over the CEO duties to the man who became his hand-picked successor, Tim Cook. The company plans an internal ceremony for employees on Oct. 19 to honor Jobs.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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