Yesterday we were up in Manchester, supporting the first Manchester Pancreatic Cancer Symposium. There was a fantastic turnout with around 100 people attending the event, including researchers, doctors, surgeons, dieticians, specialist nurses, and patients.
Our Director of Operations, Anna Jewell, had the honour of opening the event, setting the scene for pancreatic cancer in 2016. We heard about some of the major challenges that pancreatic cancer patients face, but also that things are beginning to change and with small but significant steps as more people are surviving each year. Anna set the tone for the rest of the meeting with a clear message that by working together, the pancreatic cancer community can transform the future for patients and their families.
A series of fascinating presentations followed from researchers and health professionals, ranging from Professor Eithne Costello, who sits on our Scientific Advisory Board, whose research aims to discover new biomarkers to detect pancreatic cancer earlier, right through to specialist dietician Mary Phillips, who emphasised the importance of dietary assessment and support for patients undergoing treatment.
We also heard about some really exciting developments in surgery, with an excellent presentation from Dr Krijn Van Lienden from the Netherlands, on his team’s research on the use of irreversible electroporation for locally advanced pancreatic cancer. Irreversible electroporation (IRE), sometimes referred to as Nanoknife, is a treatment that involves inserting needles into and around a cancer tumour. High voltage electrical currents are passed between the needles and these currents damage and destroy the cancer cells. Currently in the UK very few pancreatic patients have had this interventional procedure and more research is needed to fully understand the treatment and which patient groups would benefit from it. We ourselves are currently funding research in this area to try and understand more in order to ensure all, appropriate, patients have access to the treatment across the UK.
Finally, there were several presentations focusing on or highlighting the area of personalised medicine – the idea that pancreatic cancer is different in each patient and if we are able to discover the features and genetic make-up of each tumour, we should be able to match each patient with a treatment that has the best chance of being most effective. Dr Ged Brady talked about his work aiming to develop a blood test that could be used to determine how a patient might respond to a certain treatment. Mr Chris Halloran discussed his work creating iron ‘nanoparticles’ which could deliver treatments directly to pancreatic cancer tumour cells. Whilst Professor Andrew Biankin talked through his team’s recent research findings (which you may have seen in the news back in February) and plans for the future to develop a UK-wide clinical trials platform aiming to match patients to the most appropriate clinical trial based on the make-up of their tumour.
Overall the day was a huge success, and the presentations collectively made a big impression on those attending. We would like to thank all of the team in Manchester, especially Mr Derek O’Reilly, for organising the day and for giving us the opportunity to attend and present.