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Scottish scientists to carry out almost £500,000 of ground breaking research

Posted by: Research 17 November 2015

The Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office (CSO), Pancreatic Cancer Scotland and Pancreatic Cancer UK are today announcing that for the first time, they will co-fund almost £500,000 of pancreatic cancer research in Scotland.

The news comes ahead of a parliamentary reception at Holyrood today, hosted by Pancreatic Cancer UK and Pancreatic Cancer Scotland, at which Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Shona Robison will welcome the CSO’s investment into the research.

The co-funded research will see teams of scientists and clinicians at universities and hospitals in Glasgow and Dundee unite in an effort to ultimately allow thousands of patients to live longer. It is hoped the research will achieve this by improving the effectiveness of existing treatments and investigating new treatments for a disease which currently has very few treatment options, and ensuring patients receive the most suitable treatment as soon as possible. The research will begin between now and March 2016 and will be completed over the next four years.

Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all the 21 most common cancers, with just five per cent of people in Scotland living for five years or more after diagnosis, and over 700 people a year in Scotland dying of the disease. Yet across the UK, just 1.4 per cent of cancer research funding is directed towards the disease (1). Scotland is currently the only part of the UK whose government is specifically co-funding research into pancreatic cancer along with a charity.

Scientists on one of the research projects will investigate common sets of features in pancreatic cancer tumours called biomarkers, which could allow them to categorise tumours into different groups. If successful, the next stage would be to find out whether these biomarkers can be used to predict which patients will respond best to which treatments. Another project will be looking into whether PET scans, which show a three-dimensional image of the inside of the body, can be used to determine how likely patients are to respond to radiotherapy and chemotherapy before surgery.

A third group of researchers will investigate using an ultrasound tool to diagnose different types of pancreatic cancer, in the hope of creating a new tool which could identify which patients will most benefit from which treatments. A separate team will look into further understanding and developing new treatments for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours, or PNETs, which start in the hormone producing cells of the pancreas.

Co-funding from the CSO and Pancreatic Cancer UK will allow a further two research projects to begin in Scotland in the coming financial year. These projects will be made possible through Pancreatic Cancer UK’s Research Innovation Fund grant scheme (RIF), which aims to encourage creative and cutting edge ideas and approaches in pancreatic cancer research. Applications from scientists for this funding are currently being invited.

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Shona Robison said: “The Scottish Government is delighted to announce a further contribution of £75,000 to this exciting initiative. It provides a great example of government and the third sector working together to promote research into what is a devastating and difficult to treat disease."

Ross Carter, Trustee of Pancreatic Cancer Scotland, said: “Pancreatic Cancer Scotland is delighted to be co-funding this research. Support to increase awareness, to see improvements in earlier diagnosis and ultimately in survival rates is growing by the month in Scotland. That support stems from families, friends and colleagues who have personal experience of pancreatic cancer - they want to see a change.

“Scotland is well placed to deliver significant research projects into pancreatic cancer due to the fantastic facilities on offer at hospitals and universities throughout the country, and this helps to attract the very best healthcare professionals.

“I would like to thank the Scottish Government for its support and I am thrilled for all of our volunteers and supporters who have raised funds that they can see Pancreatic Cancer Scotland working with others to achieve everyone’s vision - improved chances and support for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the future.”

Alex Ford, Chief Executive at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “Today is an enormously exciting day for everyone at Pancreatic Cancer UK as we join forces with two other organisations in the latest stage of our ongoing battle against this dreadful disease. Just five per cent of people in Scotland live for five years or more after diagnosis, and there are precious few treatments for pancreatic cancer. Yet a tiny 1.4 per cent of cancer research funding in the UK is directed towards this disease.

“We are passionately committed to changing this, and playing our part in discovering new treatments and transforming the shocking survival rates which have not improved since the early 1970s. We are immensely proud to be co-funding this research, which we are confident will offer hope for the future to our Scottish supporters as well as everyone affected by pancreatic cancer. We are absolutely determined to do all we can to help patients have longer to spend with their loved ones.”

Today’s parliamentary reception is being held as part of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and will see the three co-funding organisations and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Shona Robison meeting with MSPs, pancreatic cancer nurses, doctors and other clinicians, researchers, supporters, and patients and their families. The event aims to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer and galvanise support for the charities’ aims to improve treatments and survival rates for pancreatic cancer, as well as generate more research funding into the disease.

Visit our map to view the research projects we fund in Scotland and in the rest of the UK.

Chief Scientists Office Pancreatic Cancer Scotland

Note to editors:

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

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