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Birmingham surgeon awarded £50,000 for research to improve post-surgery care for pancreatic cancer patients

Posted by: Research 6 September 2017

A Birmingham surgeon is set to begin a research project which aims to offer pancreatic cancer patients more extensive, individualised care post-surgery, with the hope of them recovering faster. The project has been made possible following a £50,000 grant from Pancreatic Cancer UK as part of the charity’s Clinical Pioneer Awards scheme.

The expected recovery time for pancreatic cancer patients who have potentially life-saving surgery is normally between 10 and 12 weeks. Support to help patients recover varies, in Birmingham 39 per cent of patients do not receive post-operative chemotherapy. This can be due to a patient’s frailty post-surgery.

Mr Roberts will offer a more holistic approach to care post-surgery by providing access to a specialist recovery nurse who will provide information on nutrition and digestive health, intensive physiotherapy and remote monitoring through the use of a ‘Fitbit’ device, as well as a review of their needs before discharge. The hope is that this extensive package of care post-surgery could allow patients to recover around four weeks more quickly, and could also allow more patients to go on to have chemotherapy.

Keith Roberts, Consultant Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgeon, will lead the research at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust. He said: “We’re very pleased our project has been selected for funding and we’re looking forward to getting started. Our aim is to improve patient care following surgery and increase the number of pancreatic cancer patients able to receive chemotherapy. I have high hopes that the additional care will give patients an improved quality of life post-surgery and have them back on their feet sooner. I’m looking forward to seeing what the outcomes are in terms of improving patient experience and recovery.”

Today’s news follows last month’s announcement of the results of Keith Roberts’ previous research project funded by a £50,000 Clinical Pioneer Award from Pancreatic Cancer UK. Mr Roberts investigated ways of reducing the time it takes for eligible patients to have surgery, to see if this meant that more of those patients had their tumour successfully removed. The pilot fast-track pathway to surgery increased the number of patients whose surgery was successful by more than a fifth (22 per cent), and saved the NHS an astonishing £3,200 per patient.

Leanne Reynolds, Head of Research at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “It is vital that we fund innovative clinical research that can benefit people who are currently affected by pancreatic cancer, by improving treatment options and care today.

“We’re extremely excited to be working with Mr Roberts and his team again, and we’re confident this project will enhance patients’ experience following surgery and allow them to recover more quickly. We hope that the research will lead to post-surgery care for pancreatic cancer patients improving across the UK in the future.”

Surgery is the only treatment for pancreatic cancer which can save lives. Currently, just eight per cent of pancreatic cancer patients in the UK have surgery to successfully remove their tumour. This is because the vast majority of patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when surgery is not an option.

More than 800 people in the West Midlands are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year. Across the UK, less than seven per cent of pancreatic cancer patients will live for five years or more after diagnosis.

The Clinical Pioneer Awards scheme was developed by Pancreatic Cancer UK to support health professionals and researchers who are investigating priority areas that affect current patients and their families. To date Pancreatic Cancer UK has invested more than £220,000 in Clinical Pioneer Award projects.