Research we have funded

Pancreatic Cancer Action has funded several projects investigating the early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. This has allowed researchers to examine several new ways of looking at the disease.

Research part or fully funded by Pancreatic Cancer Action has been important in the development of potential biomarkers to diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier, in some cases, before symptoms appear. Many of these studies have gone on to receive grants from other organisations to help the work move further.

The link between diabetes and pancreatic cancer

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 Etihne Costello and her team 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.

If researchers can discover a marker in the blood (also known as a biomarker) that can distinguish between the two types of diabetes, or diabetes caused by pancreatic cancer, it could give doctors a simple tool for diagnosis in these people.

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Developing a urine test as a diagnostic test

Developing a urine test for pancreatic cancer Pancreatic Cancer Action funded a project from Dr Tatiana Crnogorac-Jurcevic and her team studying potential biomarkers for pancreatic cancer in patient’s urine. The project looks at urine as a sample that is easy to collect and avoids invasive testing.

The team examined a series of proteins that may act as biomarkers, identifying patients who have pancreatic cancer via a simple test. Original results showed promise for some potential biomarkers when used with CA19-9, the most accurate biomarker currently in use. This research has now been expanded with a grant from Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund (PCRF) to test accuracy and reliability over a four-year study in patients.

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Retrospective case-control study

The first research project was produced in partnership with a University of Surrey research team led by Dr Agnieszka Lemanska. The aims of the study were to confirm the link between diabetes and pancreatic cancer and to examine the differences in diabetes management and primary care presentation between patients who go on to develop pancreatic cancer and those who do not.

The project was a retrospective case-control study, interrogating the RCGP database to provide a large sample size of cases and controls. Multiple variables can be examined from demographics to diagnostics, number of presentations at primary care to disease management. 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.

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