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Welcome increase in pancreatic cancer research spending

Posted by: Policy and campaigning 23 July 2015

On Tuesday the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) released information about how much was spent on cancer research by NCRI partner organisations in 2014, including a breakdown of how much was spent on each different cancer type. The news is definitely encouraging as it shows that whilst the amount of money the NCRI spent on all cancer research fell by 1% in 2014, the sum spent on pancreatic cancer rose by over 35%, from £5.2m in 2013 to just over £7m in 2014. We now need to see that upward trend continue with further increases in pancreatic cancer research funding in future years.

Background 

Back in 2012 our Research Policy Briefing - A Cancer of Unmet need: the pancreatic cancer research challenge - made the case for a rise in pancreatic cancer research spending levels from the 2010 figure of £4.4m to at least £10m by 2015, £12m by 2017 and to £25m by 2022.

The £10m figure was arrived at from a high level analysis of research into other cancers, like prostate and bowel. That analysis suggested that £10m is the minimum point where funding starts to grow in a more rapid and, importantly, in a more sustainable manner due to a critical mass of researchers working in the field generating competitive research proposals and a solid research infrastructure. The longer-term goal of £25m was arrived at because that would put pancreatic cancer research at around the same level – proportionate to the number of deaths caused each year - as breast cancer research, which has seen some major research advances in recent years. 

Since our 2012 report, there has been an e-petition organised by Maggie Watts calling for, amongst other things, more research spending for pancreatic cancer. That petition received over 100,000 signatures and was debated in Parliament. Moreover, in 2014 the All Party Parliamentary Group on Pancreatic Cancer produced a report on how to increase the quality and quantity of research into pancreatic cancer in the UK, which echoed our own calls for an increase in research funding to at least £10m by 2015. 

NCRIGraphic _Blog Image

Progress 

Let’s take a look at the new NCRI pancreatic cancer research spending figures in a bit more detail.

The percentage of all NCRI spending rose from 1% in 2013 to 1.4% in 2014. And when you take out the spending on research that could potentially benefit all cancers and focus just on what is known as site-specific spending - research focusing on individual cancer types – the share of spending for pancreatic cancer is 3.1%. This is important as pancreatic cancer makes up about 3% of all cancer cases in the UK and so it looks like, for the first time, NCRI research spending is mirroring the actual incidence of pancreatic cancer.

NCRI spend

2002

2012

2013

2014

% of NCRI total spend

0.5%

0.9%

1.0%

1.4%

% of NCRI site-specific spend

1.2%

2.0%

2.3%

3.1%

Total cash spend in year £

 1,209,533

 4,497,416

  5,210,413

  7,026,437

 

Of course, £7m is still a long way from £10m, but it is important to remember that none of the pancreatic cancer charities, including us, are currently members of the NCRI. If you add in the amount of research spending Pancreatic Cancer UK and other pancreatic cancer charities spend on research – for instance we aim to spend over £1m in the coming year - we are much closer to that £10m goal.

However, even though we are moving in the right direction we need to see more progress in future years. We believe that research funding needs at least, in the short-term, to more closely match the proportion of all cancer deaths in the UK caused by pancreatic cancer – about 5% each year. At the present time the amount of money spent on research per death is still lower than for many other cancer types. Some examples are set out in the table below. 

Cancer type

NCRI site-specific research spend 2014 (£)

Number of deaths (2012)

Research spend per death 2014 (£)

Leukemia

     34,499,275

4807

7176.88

Breast

     42,207,775

11716

3602.58

Ovarian

       8,287,213

4271

1940.34

Colorectal

     26,731,376

16187

1651.41

Oesophageal

       8,080,036

7701

1049.22

Kidney

       3,694,884

4252

868.98

Pancreatic

       7,026,437

8662

811.18

Lung

     15,363,167

35371

434.34

 

We are therefore continuing to call for £12m to be spent on pancreatic cancer research by 2017 and £25m by 2022. We have a long way to go before we hit those ambitious levels but we believe that with more work the targets are achievable. Ultimately, we hope that increased levels of funding will lead to the research breakthroughs we need to see more lives saved from this dreadful disease.

In the meantime, thank you to everyone who signed Maggie’s petition, has lobbied their MP or joined us in campaigning in other ways about this issue over the past few years. Your hard work and dedication is starting to pay off.