Pancreatic Cancer Action announces recipients of Early Diagnosis Challenge Award research grants

35771838_mlPancreatic Cancer Action, a charity that exists to save lives by focusing on improving early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, is proud to award four Early Diagnosis Challenge Award research grants.  The grants, which total £160,000, will fund unique and exciting projects in the UK that aim to develop an early detection test for pancreatic cancer.

The Early Diagnosis Challenge Award programme is part of Pancreatic Cancer Action’s research strategy that aims to invest at least £1 million into research in the next five years.  It provides grants to research projects that have a focus on increasing the number of patients who are diagnosed in time for surgery – currently the only potential for a cure for pancreatic cancer.

In 2015, researchers were invited to submit detailed proposals for their work, and the grants were awarded following a rigorous review process with the best being selected by an International Scientific Advisory Committee Chaired by Professor Hemant Kocher from Barts Cancer Institute, London. The four projects that will be funded are:

  • Ultraconserved Genes in Pancreatic Cancer: A study to investigate the deregulation of certain genes in pancreatic cancer – deregulation that has been seen in the early stages of other cancers but not yet investigated in pancreatic cancer. It aims to find out if selected genes are specifically deregulated in pancreatic cancer and if they can be detected in tissue and blood of patients at risk. This will determine if they have the potential to lead to a new test for early diagnosis (The project, led by Dr Chiara Braconi, Institute of Cancer Research at The Royal Marsden, receives £40,000.)
  • Sample collection from individuals with new-onset diabetes and validation of blood-borne biomarkers to enable earlier detection pancreatic cancer in this high risk group. A study to establish the UK’s first collection of blood samples from individuals with new-onset diabetes.  This new collection will be used to evaluate biomarkers to find out if they can be used to discriminate between diabetes associated with pancreatic cancer and common type 2 diabetes mellitus. (The project, led by Dr Eithne Costello, University of Liverpool, receives £40,000.)
  • A Novel Approach to the early detection of pancreatic cancer. A project to develop a bio-marker model using a new mathematical approach.  The mathematical modelling will combine measures of cancer – associated proteins in blood samples taken from patients prior to diagnosis.  The aim is that the resulting models will help in detecting pancreatic cancer patients who are assessed to be high risk and/or present early symptoms.   (The project, led by Dr John Timms, University College London, receives £40,000.)
  • Metals as Early Biomarkers for Pancreatic Cancer. This study aims to determine if a metal test in urine can be used as an early diagnostic tool for pancreatic cancer.  The research will examine whether trace metals such as zinc and copper, which are essential for life, are different in patients with pancreatic cancer compared to healthy people.  (The project, led by Dr Tatjana Crnogorac-Jurcevic, Barts Cancer Institute London, receives £40,000.)

One of the award recipients, John Timms, who is leading A Novel Approach to the early detection of pancreatic cancer project, said: “Receiving the award from Pancreatic Cancer Action is fantastic news. The funding will allow us to build and test novel biomarker models as blood tests for the early detection of pancreatic cancer. We are using a completely novel approach to combining candidate biomarker data from a unique set of blood samples taken prior to the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. We hope to translate the findings of this exciting work into a rapid diagnostic pathway for pancreatic cancer.”

Ali Stunt, chief executive of Pancreatic Cancer Action and pancreatic cancer survivor, said: “Pancreatic cancer takes the lives of far too many and we want to do all we can to improve the dire survival rates.  Research into ways to detect pancreatic cancer early is imperative to truly transform outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients.”

“We were delighted with the applications that we received and believe the selected projects offer real hope for finding new ways to test for pancreatic cancer.  Each project is different and by funding a variety of projects, we are more likely to make significant scientific and clinical discoveries.”

For more information on pancreatic cancer and Pancreatic Cancer Action, please visit www.pancreaticcanceraction.org.