Research we fund

Pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest cancer killer in the UK, with only 7.9% of patients surviving 5 years. However, in patients with operable pancreatic cancer, this 5-year survival rate increases from 7.9% to 29%.

Currently, operable pancreatic cancer is only available for those diagnosed in the early stages of the disease, where the cancer has not yet spread beyond the pancreas. Currently, only 10-20% of patients are diagnosed in time for life-saving surgery, otherwise, there is no cure. Despite these clear and present challenges, the combined UK Government and voluntary sector investment into pancreatic cancer research is only 6.13% of the total cancer research funding.

Pancreatic Cancer Action is committed to funding research projects to aid early diagnosis and improve these statistics.

The following research projects set out how we will put our words into action and help make our vision a reality. They demonstrate how we will both fund and support innovative research, to improve early diagnosis and develop effective treatments to improve pancreatic cancer outcomes.

Research we currently fund includes:

Diabetes & pancreatic cancer

In partnership with the University of Surrey, this research project would be a retrospective case-control study (looking back at existing patients with and without a condition). The project involves examining the GP records of patients with diabetes who went on to develop pancreatic cancer and those who did not develop the disease. Records will be taken from the RCGP database where approximately 9.5 million patients’ data are stored. This allows a large sample of patients to investigate.

The study will compare the records of patients to find any differences in their demographics such as BMI and age. Comparisons can also be made in patients’ journeys, both in the control and development of their diabetes, and other symptoms presented at GP appointments.

The findings of the study will be reported in the form of a research paper, aiming to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Identifying biomarkers

Studies originally funded by Pancreatic Cancer Action have resulted in a grant from Cancer Research UK to study the link between type 2 diabetes and pancreatic cancer. Dr Eithne Costello and her team at the University of Liverpool are conducting a study where patients will have blood tests to identify if their diabetes is type 2 or the rarer type 3c diabetes and if this is a result of pancreatic cancer. The test aims to identify biomarkers of type 3c diabetes and/or pancreatic cancer. You can read more about the study here: Blood levels of adiponectin and IL-1Ra distinguish type 3c from type 2 diabetes: Implications for earlier pancreatic cancer detection in new-onset diabetes – ScienceDirect

Funded PhD

In partnership with Pancreatic Cancer UK and the Scottish Chief Scientist Office, we are funding the next generation of pancreatic cancer researchers are set to investigate how the disease grows and spreads and aim to discover new treatments.

Five PhD students have been recruited to the new Future Leaders Academy, and have begun four years of research at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow. The hopes are that the students will not only make vital breakthroughs in understanding and treating the disease, but will also remain committed to the disease throughout their careers, and help to solve another key challenge facing pancreatic cancer research.

Clinical nurse specialists

Since August 2018, Pancreatic Cancer Scotland and now Pancreatic Cancer Action has been fully funding an innovative new role; a Clinical Nurse Specialist within the West of Scotland Cancer Network. The role provides additional resources, helping support patients and families understanding of clinical trials and has contributed to enhanced participation and recruitment of patients to clinical trials, including the Precision-Panc study. The success of this role demonstrates how a collaborative approach with the third sector, healthcare professionals and research programmes can make a real difference. Recruitment to clinical trials for pancreatic cancer has been an ongoing struggle due to the poor survival rate. A clinical nurse specialist is a key tool to improve both patient care and support research opportunities.