Glasgow scientists leading in pancreatic cancer treatment

GLASGOW scientists are set to receive up to £8 million from Cancer Research UK to lead a project that could transform pancreatic cancer trials in the UK, with patients being selected based on their individual tumour.

Professor Andrew Biankin.

The charity is investing a total of £10 million in the PRECISION Panc* project which aims to develop personalised treatments for pancreatic cancer patients, improving the options and outcomes for a disease where survival rates have remained stubbornly low.

In Scotland, pancreatic cancer incidence rates have increased by 12 per cent over the past 10 years. Around 620 people were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 10 years ago, today around 790 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

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Over this same period in Scotland, pancreatic cancer mortality rates have increased by 6 per cent.

Around 610 people died from pancreatic cancer in Scotland 10 years ago, today around 730 die from pancreatic cancer.

Professor Andrew Biankin at the University of Glasgow, who has pioneered the project along with researchers across the UK, aims to speed up recruitment and enrolment of pancreatic cancer patients to clinical trials that are right for the individual patient.

The researchers will use the molecular profile of each individual cancer to offer patients and their doctor a menu of trials that might benefit them.

The first wave of research will establish the best way to collect and profile patient tissue samples. Each patient will have up to five samples taken from their tumour at diagnosis for analysis at the University of Glasgow.

The results will guide clinical trial options in the future.

The three trials planned as part of this initiative will recruit a total of 658 patients in centres across the UK – with the scope to add more trials in the future. Patients will also be helped onto suitable clinical trials that are already up and running.

The trials will be led by the CRUK Clinical Trials Unit at Glasgow’s Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre.

Professor Andrew Biankin, a Cancer Research UK pancreatic cancer expert at the University of Glasgow, said: “PRECISION Panc aims to transform how we treat pancreatic cancer by matching the right treatment to the right patient.

“Because the disease is so aggressive, patients may receive no treatment at all or if they are given an option it will be for just one line of treatment, so it’s essential that the most suitable treatment is identified quickly. It’s important we offer all patients the opportunity to be part of research alongside their standard care.”

The programme will ensure discoveries from the lab rapidly reach patients, and that data from clinical trials feed back into research of the disease.

Professor Biankin, who relocated to Glasgow from Australia in 2013, added: “PRECISION Panc has been developed over the course of three years through the unwavering commitment of pancreatic clinicians and researchers across the UK who see that the patients deserve much more than is currently available to them.

“I’m fully committed to this project and I believe we’re on the cusp of making some incredible advances which will provide therapeutic options to help people affected by this terrible disease.

“This investment from Cancer Research UK, together with the commitment from our other stakeholders, puts Glasgow at the centre of pancreatic cancer treatment and research in the UK, if not the whole of Europe.”

Victoria Steven, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson in Scotland, said: “This ambitious project marks a new era for pancreatic cancer and puts Glasgow at the forefront of pancreatic cancer research.

“Little progress has been made in outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients, and PRECISION Panc will reshape how we approach treatment development.

“Scots have every right to feel proud of the ground-breaking research into ­cancer taking place on their doorstep and of their fundraising efforts that allow us to bring forward the day when we can beat this devastating disease.”