A new approach to early diagnosis
Pancreatic cancer is particularly hard to diagnose, which is one of the key reasons it is such a tough disease to survive. Signs and symptoms can often be vague and non-specific, so misdiagnosis is very common, resulting in many patients not being diagnosed until their cancer is at an advanced stage, and nearly half of all pancreatic cancer patients diagnosed via emergency presentation. At this late stage, surgery is usually not possible – the only treatment that has the potential to cure the disease. Overall, 1 in 4 people in the UK will die within a month of diagnosis, and 3 in 4 within one year.
The challenge is clear: we need to understand how to diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier to give more people a chance of survival.
Investment in early diagnosis research is critical
Helping GPs recognise the symptoms of pancreatic cancer forms a key part of delivering early diagnosis, so Pancreatic Cancer UK regularly runs study days for GPs throughout the UK, as well as producing information for GPs to help aid diagnosis. But with symptoms so difficult to spot, we know these initiatives can only ever be part of the answer. A simple test is vital – and its development depends on a totally new approach to research.
Bringing earlier diagnosis to people with pancreatic cancer is one of the most important challenges in pancreatic cancer research and has been for decades. However, pancreatic cancer has been historically underfunded with only 2% of the annual UK cancer research budget being directed towards pancreatic cancer. This is three times less than research spend on breast cancer.
And of the total research spend for pancreatic cancer, the proportion of funding invested in early diagnosis has fallen by more than fifty percent in a five-year period.
The UK research budget is made up of National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) partners and doesn’t include the research we’ve been funding in the area of early diagnosis over the past eight years. We need to see an increase in funding for early diagnosis research across the board, not only from major funders but also in terms of Pancreatic Cancer UK’s own investment.
With your support we can tackle early diagnosis.
The single biggest investment in early diagnosis within pancreatic cancer in the UK
Pancreatic Cancer UK has always been committed to researching and improving early diagnosis but now is the time to step this up a level and change the picture of research funding. Previous investments in early diagnosis research have been too small, infrequent and isolated, meaning that the best efforts of researchers have yet to succeed.
To solve this problem, we’re taking a different approach. To spearhead new thinking, last year we held an ‘early diagnosis workshop’; an interactive, intensive discussion where we challenged scientists to tackle early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. As a result, for the very first time in the UK, scientists, brought together by Pancreatic Cancer UK, are collaborating on one major early diagnosis research project; the Pancreatic Cancer UK Early Diagnosis Research Alliance.
This represents the single biggest investment in early diagnosis within pancreatic cancer in the UK. The Alliance has been made possible through the generous support of Nicki’s Smile and Dan Blake, together with funds generated by other supporters.
The future of the early diagnosis research
Thanks to our supporters, through the Alliance we will make great strides in early diagnosis research. But we mustn’t stop there. More work will be needed to bring any breakthrough out of the lab and into the local hospital and your support will once again be critical to spearhead the next stage of ground-breaking research into early diagnosis.