Pancreatic cancer urgently needs more research – to detect the disease sooner, improve treatments and save lives. Just 3 per cent of people with this cancer survive for five years or more.
‘When I was training at a Massachusetts hospital in the early 1990s there were no effective treatments for this devastating disease. By the time we met patients it was too late for them to have treatment, they were too ill to cope and responded poorly to medicines. Twenty years on, that’s still the case. This needs to change.’
‘Less than 20 per cent of people survive pancreatic cancer for a year once they’ve been diagnosed. Neither of the two current treatments used has the impact we want because it’s so difficult to get drugs into pancreatic cancer tumours.
But I’m hopeful for the future. I work at Cancer Research UK’s CRI, a state-of-the-art facility where the potential for progress is palpable and very exciting. I believe we will come up with medicines that treat the root cause of pancreatic cancer, the ‘ras’ gene, and, at the same time, improve the health of patients with the disease while we treat them.
My vision is that we come up with medicines that treat the root cause of pancreatic cancer and, at the same time, improve the health of patients with the disease while we treat them.’
‘We are testing two new treatments: the first seems to shrink the scar tissue of tumours, which allows us to deliver chemotherapy more effectively into them; the second appears to change the structure of tumours, which could also help us treat the disease. Both of these treatments should enable people to live longer and improve their quality of life.
As pancreatic cancer is so aggressive, patients are often not well enough to take part in trials, so we are also looking at new approaches to deal with the pain, blood clotting and muscle wasting associated with this disease.
I believe that we will discover a treatment for pancreatic cancer and develop medicines that improve the welfare of patients. I’m cautiously optimistic that I’m going to lose my job!’
Professor David Tuveson