Healthcare professional news

New science centre could mean new treatment for pancreatic cancer!

The UK’s first convergence science centre has opened in the UK! This will bring together scientists from multiple research areas to investigate new cancer treatment paths, including a treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Cancer Research UK have teamed up with the Institute of Cancer Research and Imperial College London to fund the centre. Experts in data, medicine, engineering, biology and other disciplines will work together to help create and develop new treatments for cancer patients.

A new treatment for pancreatic cancer?

The teams will be working on the early detection of cancer, monitoring how cancer responds to treatment and new therapies. One of the first projects being worked on is aimed at benefiting patients with pancreatic cancer. The treatment, called histotripsy, uses ultrasound that has been adapted as a therapy to destroy tumour cells in the body without damaging healthy tissue.

The treatment works by creating pulses of high frequency sound waves and concentrating them deep into the body where the tumour is. These pulses create micro bubbles, tiny bubbles of air that break the cancer cells apart into fragments. The body can then dispose of these fragments naturally without them causing harm. Researchers believe that using this technique could break off and destroy the cancer piece by piece. The technique is very precise, and progress can be viewed and monitored in real time. It also saves the need for surgery in patients who may be suitable for the treatment.

Developing the treatment

This is not the first study to look at the benefits of histotripsy in cancer treatment. Studies have been carried out for other cancer types such as liver and prostate before. There is more than one way of carrying out histotripsy and creating the micro bubbles which break the tumour apart. Studies to find the best method have been carried out in mice and humans with promising results. This research aims to build on these developments.

Thanks to £13 million of cancer research funding into the convergent science centre, this research can continue in the UK and hopefully benefit patients with pancreatic cancer as soon as possible. Survival rates for pancreatic cancer have not improved in line with some other cancer types. Five-year survival remains under 7%. The convergent science centre could help to change this by bringing together researchers from different areas to tackle the disease in new and creative ways.