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Over £1 million invested in research into treatments for pancreatic cancer

Posted by: Research 1 November 2015

Pancreatic Cancer UK will fund over £1 million of ground breaking research into treatments for the disease, which could mean a longer life for thousands of people, the charity has announced on the first day of pancreatic cancer awareness month.

Currently, pancreatic cancer kills one person every hour and the disease has the worst survival rate of all the 21 most common cancers. Pancreatic Cancer UK hopes to transform this prognosis through its largest research investment to date, which will see teams of researchers working on 13 different projects with the aim of generating new and improved treatments for a cancer which currently has very few treatment options.

Just four per cent of people survive pancreatic cancer for five years after diagnosis. This shocking survival rate has remained stagnant for the last 40 years. Despite this, a tiny 1.4 per cent of cancer research funding in the UK is currently directed towards pancreatic cancer (1). Pancreatic Cancer UK’s latest investment in research aims to begin to redress this funding imbalance, and offer hope to thousands of families affected by the disease.

The research will look into an exciting new treatment which destroys pancreatic cancer cells using a flu virus, and new ways to stop the spread and growth of tumours, such as investigating the important role that pancreatic cancer stem cells play in tumour development. Researchers will also be working in the area of immunotherapy, in which the power of the body’s own immune system is used to fight cancer cells.

Researchers funded by the charity will also investigate how to make existing treatments such as chemotherapy more effective, by identifying which patients are most likely to benefit from each treatment. This includes research looking at the make up of different types of pancreatic cancer tumour, and determining which treatment will be most effective for each one.

But the charity is not only funding innovative research in a lab setting. Today Pancreatic Cancer UK is also launching its new Clinical Pioneer Awards Scheme, which provides funding for research in a clinical setting by surgeons, doctors, and other healthcare professionals. This research looks into existing and emerging treatments, with the aim of improving care for current patients with pancreatic cancer, and those diagnosed in the future.

One such project will look into the innovative NanoKnife® treatment, in which high voltage currents are passed down needles inserted into and around a pancreatic cancer tumour in order to damage and destroy cancer cells. This treatment has not yet been approved for routine use on the NHS, and is only accessible for free to very few patients at a few hospitals in the UK. Pancreatic Cancer UK hopes to change that by funding the collection of more evidence on the safety and effectiveness of the treatment in patients with pancreatic cancer, which if positive could lay the grounds for it to be approved for regular use on the NHS in the future.

The charity’s research will take place at universities and hospitals across the UK over the next five years.

Alex Ford, Chief Executive at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said:

"We are delighted to announce our largest ever research investment, which we hope will ultimately mean longer lives for thousands of people facing this dreadful disease. This research is not only set to transform the prognosis of pancreatic cancer in years to come, but through our new Clinical Pioneer Awards Scheme, is also set to benefit people with the disease in the near future by improving existing and emerging treatment and care. These very exciting new awards are also an innovative way of involving surgeons, doctors and other healthcare professionals who support people with pancreatic cancer in our quest to develop better treatment and care.

“Today is a thrilling day for us as we lead the way in pancreatic cancer research, but we could not have made this investment if it was not for the generosity of our supporters. On the first day of pancreatic cancer awareness month, we are sending out a huge thank you to each and every one of them. We are also confident that today’s news will spread a vital message of hope to our supporters, and to everyone affected by pancreatic cancer across the UK, that we are passionately committed to helping patients have longer to spend with their loved ones.”

For more details on research funded by Pancreatic Cancer UK, visit our map.


(1)  Source: National Cancer Research Institute, 2014 figures. See full breakdown here

All other pancreatic cancer statistics quoted are from Cancer Research UK.