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Investigating the spread of pancreatic cancer

Recipient: Dr Jo Tod

Host Institution: University of Southampton

Title: Investigating the spread of pancreatic cancer 

Type of award: 2014 Research grant

Funding: £47,000, funded by Pancreatic Cancer UK, PLANETS Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.

Dr Jo Tod is leading the two-year, full-time research programme to investigate how proteins on the surface of cancerous cells encourage those cells to spread, and how they can influence normal cells to help a tumour in the pancreas to grow. Through the research, Dr Tod and her team hope to gain a better understanding of this complex process, which could lead to new ways of treating pancreatic cancer in the future.

The research is vital because, of the 8,800 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the UK, only about four per cent of people will survive for five years or more. This is because they are often diagnosed when the disease is too far advanced for surgery; the only curative treatment. One person dies of pancreatic cancer every hour in the UK.

Dr Tod and her team have already discovered a link between the proteins avb6 and Eps8. Both appear in high levels in more than 70 per cent of people with pancreatic cancer. The new research programme will seek to further understand the process of how avb6 and Eps8 interact to grow an existing tumour and help pancreatic cancer cells spread, with a view to looking at these proteins as potential future treatments.