Cancer Research UK has tripled its investment in pancreatic cancer, one of the hardest cancers to treat, since launching its research strategy in 2014 according to new figures.
The charity increased spending on pancreatic cancer research, including improving diagnosis and treatment, to £18 million in 2015/16, tripling the £6 million investment in 2013/14.
One of the charity’s aims is to help tackle the rising rates of pancreatic cancer, in particular in women, as well improving poor survival from the disease.
Statistics have shown that only one in every 100 pancreatic cancer patients in England and Wales survive their disease for more than 10 years – a statistic which has stayed constant since the 1970s.
However, rates of pancreatic cancer have gone up by 9% in the UK over the past decade, during which time the number of people in the UK dying from pancreatic cancer has increased.
This means 4,800 women were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 4,400 died from the disease in 2014, rising from 3,900 cases and 3,700 deaths in 2004.
Among men, 4,800 were diagnosed with the disease and 4,400 died from it in 2014. This increased from 3,700 cases and 3,400 deaths in 2004.
Figures for England published this month also show that pancreatic cancer has the lowest per cent of cases diagnosed at an early stage, with just over one in five (21%) being diagnosed at stage one or two.
Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “In 2014 we prioritised increased investment in pancreatic, lung, and oesophageal cancers and brain tumours in our research strategy as survival rates in these cancers remain appallingly low, and they are extremely difficult to treat when diagnosed at a late stage.
“To ensure we make a real difference in these cancers we only fund the best research, as determined by international experts, so it’s a credit to the excellence of our growing team of scientists that we’ve been able to increase our activity in these areas this significantly.”
In 2014 Cancer Research UK recruited world-leading pancreatic cancer research expert, Professor Andrew Biankin from Australia, to work at the Cancer Research UK Glasgow Centre.
Biankin now leads a team looking into the genetics of the biggest collection of pancreatic tumour samples in the world.
His findings could lead to better ways of matching therapies to patients, and uncover new avenues for treatment.
Biankin said: “Pancreatic cancer is an inherently aggressive disease and it’s often diagnosed late, which puts it a step ahead of us when we come to treat it. We need to be more ambitious and hit the disease hard and fast with new approaches. We need to diagnose these cancers swiftly so patients can get onto clinical trials, which may help them.
“Throughout my career I’ve been determined to increase how much we know about pancreatic cancer. Right now, I’m studying differences in pancreatic cancer cells to find new ways to predict the best treatment for each patient. Increasing the amount of research taking place in the UK allows us to be much more optimistic about the future of beating this cancer.”