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Introducing our new Head of Research

Posted by: Research 14 August 2015

Leanne ReynoldsI’ve spent the last six or so years working in the area of research management, with around three of those years at the National Institute for Health Research funding multi-million pound awards across a multitude of conditions, and the other three at Asthma UK – my first move into the charity sector.

I’m incredibly excited to have taken up the role of Head of Research for the small but mighty Pancreatic Cancer UK and it’s been a busy period for research, with three big pancreatic cancer research stories hitting the headlines. One month into my new role, I thought a recap was in order.

A step closer to a pancreatic cancer blood test

Towards the end of June, you may have seen a piece on the BBC website reporting on promising research that emerged in the journal Nature. The research showed that a simple blood test could be developed as a non-invasive, early diagnosis tool for pancreatic cancer.

The researchers, a team from the University of Texas, discovered that a certain protein is present in the blood of patients with pancreatic cancer, whereas it is absent in the blood of those without. In the future this discovery could be developed into a clinical diagnostic or screening test which could have huge implications for detecting pancreatic cancer at an earlier stage. This would see improved outcomes and survival rates for patients in the future.

More work needs to be done before the results can be moved into a clinical setting, but these findings are extremely promising and exciting. Research like this shows why it is so vital that we and other funders continue to invest more into pancreatic cancer research in order to make breakthroughs like these and see them translated into patient benefit.

Potential new drug to enhance chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer

On 22nd July a news story broke about the development of a new drug that works by impairing cancer cells’ resistance to chemotherapy, thus enhancing the effects of the treatment. The research was carried out by researchers at the University of Newcastle and at the Institute of Cancer Research, where the drug was discovered.

Our bodies have evolved a mechanism that can detect and repair DNA damage to our cells, ensuring that faulty DNA isn’t passed on when the cell divides. Cancer cells use this mechanism to repair themselves when they come under attack – for example, after chemotherapy treatment targets the DNA of rapidly dividing cells, the DNA repair mechanism enables cancer cells to repair themselves and build up a resistance to treatment.

Previous research has shown that cancer cells do this by activating a molecule called CHK1, which delays cell division and allows cancer cells to mend their damaged DNA. The researchers have developed a new drug that blocks the way that CHK1 works and therefore stops the cancer cells from repairing DNA damage. This means that the cells’ resistance to treatment is weakened and the cancer-killing effects are therefore enhanced.

This research is in its early stages, but we’ll be interested to follow its progress through the clinical trials stage; this could be a promising avenue and could see a new class of pancreatic cancer drug emerging by targeting these DNA repair pathways.

Pancreatic cancer urine test shows potential

We posted a comment on our blog the day this research was released, so read the full story here.

You can read more about the research that Pancreatic Cancer UK is currently funding here, and watch this space too for further funding news.