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Glasgow researchers awarded £625,000 to discover new treatments for pancreatic cancer

Posted by: Research 20 September 2017

The next generation of pancreatic cancer researchers are set to investigate how the disease grows and spreads and aim to discover new treatments, thanks to grants of £500,000 from Pancreatic Cancer UK, £75,000 from the Chief Scientist Office and £50,000 from Pancreatic Cancer Scotland.

We have recruited five PhD students to our new Future Leaders Academy who will begin four years of research at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow on 2nd October. We hope the students will not only make vital breakthroughs in understanding and treating the disease, but will also remain committed to the disease throughout their careers, and help to solve another key challenge facing pancreatic cancer research.

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The disease attracts just 1.9 per cent of the UK cancer research budget every year, which has meant a lack of breakthroughs in how the disease works and ways to treat it. However, inadequate funding is just one part of the problem. Another obstacle blocking vital progress into the disease is the relatively small number of researchers focusing on pancreatic cancer. By funding these promising new researchers at the beginning of their careers, we hope to see them continue to specialise in the disease in years to come.

Around 800 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Scotland each year, and the disease has the lowest survival rate of all the 20 most common cancers, with less than five per cent of patients in Scotland living for five years or more. Survival of the disease has barely improved since the early 1970s.

The PhD students will aim to further understand how pancreatic cancer grows and spreads, and how it resists current treatments. The hope is that by targeting those specific processes, they will then be able to find new ways to slow down or stop the spread and growth of the disease. They will also investigate ways to ‘wake up’ the body’s immune system to help it fight against the disease.

Alex Ford, Chief Executive at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “The only way to transform the future for a disease as tough as pancreatic cancer is to make a long-term investment into research. This is why, with the support of our funding partners the Chief Scientist Office and Pancreatic Cancer Scotland, we have created and funded the Future Leaders Academy. We are all so excited to welcome on board these bright and promising new researchers. We are confident that they will bring us closer to the answers we urgently need about this disease, but also that they will develop a lifelong passion for transforming the outlook of pancreatic cancer.

“We believe our Future Leaders Academy will play a crucial role in leading us towards new and improved treatment options which are so vital for patients and families, as well as in turn helping us attract more interest in pancreatic cancer from the research community in the years to come.”

Dr Alan McNair, Senior Research Manager at the Chief Scientist Office said: “It is through research that effective new treatments for pancreatic cancer will be developed. We are therefore delighted to partner with Pancreatic Cancer UK and Pancreatic Cancer Scotland by investing in the Future Leaders Academy. This exciting initiative will help ensure that Scotland remains at the forefront of research into pancreatic cancer.”

Ross Carter, Trustee for Pancreatic Cancer Scotland and Consultant Pancreatic Surgeon at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, said: "This project will bring together some of the brightest young researchers to work together on linked pancreatic cancer projects under the supervision of Professor Owen Sansom and his colleagues at the world-leading Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute. This is a fantastic opportunity for Pancreatic Cancer Scotland to collaborate with Pancreatic Cancer UK and the Chief Scientist Office to continue to support pancreatic cancer research at the pioneering Glasgow research centre. This is another significant step in addressing the research deficit in pancreatic cancer relative to other tumour types.  We would like to express our gratitude to our supporters for their generosity in enabling this project to come to fruition."

With your support we can fund even more of the UK’s best and brightest PhD students as they begin their research career. Donate today and help fund our Future Leaders Academy.