Pancreatic cancer and research

Research into cancer is often reported in the news and it can feel as though you are being given different information every day. The pages here will explain the process of research, answer some common questions about research into pancreatic cancer and help you to understand more about the stories you may read.

What is research?

Research is the process of conducting an investigation to solve a problem, increase knowledge or create something new. Medical research examines the causes, diagnosis and treatment of disease. Pancreatic cancer research aims to discover why the disease happens and how to prevent it, signs and symptoms, best treatments and how to improve quality of life for patients during their disease and beyond.

Research is broken down into a number of stages and it can take many years to get from an idea to a result. Research does not always end in a positive outcome or result in a new medicine or insight; many studies fail to show effective results.  

Click here for more questions and answers about pancreatic cancer research. 

The research process

There are many ways of carrying out research depending on the question to be answered, the evidence that already exists and the kind of resources available. How reliable research is depends on the type of study and how well it is carried out. Some research is therefore considered better quality than others.

Types of research and the process of developing new medications or interventions are described below. Research often begins with observational studies or an early discovery and develops to clinical trials. Through each stage of research, results are considered more reliable. 

Points to consider when you hear about research

Research into detecting, treating and curing cancer is reported in the news quite often. Newspapers often report medical news and it can be difficult to know exactly what to believe. You may feel as though you are being told that something is good for you one day and bad for you the next. When looking at a news article or reading about a piece of research, it may help to consider the following points;

  • Was the research carried out in humans, animals or neither? This can help to show you how far through the research process the study is. A study in mice for example is many years away from having a significant effect in humans. Whereas a clinical trial, while still years from success, may be more promising.
  • Is the research published in a medical journal? This means that other researchers are likely to have reviewed the research and consider it to be trustworthy and reliable.
  • If the research was carried out in humans, does the article say anything about the number of people? In general, the larger a sample size, the more accurate the information produced is.
  • Does the research list its limitations or areas for further study? This can help to tell you what the authors think their study may mean in real life terms and what the studies weaknesses are.
  • Does the author give any evidence to support what they are saying? Do they use quotes from the researchers or give any figures or statistics? Do they reference their work? This can help you to understand what the research is and where it is coming from.

If you use this critical thinking to read any news or research that you come across, not just about pancreatic cancer, you may develop a better understanding of the research and what it means.