University of Manchester to receive £1.2m for pancreatic cancer research

University of Manchester scientists are set to receive £1.2m from Cancer Research UK to help transform pancreatic cancer treatment in the UK (University of Manchester, 2017).

Cancer Research UK is investing a total of £10m in the PRECISION Panc project based in Glasgow, Manchester and Cambridge, 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.

Around a thousand people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in North West England every year. Currently around nine hundred and thirty people die of the disease in region each year.

Scientists from the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, based at the University of Manchester, will work with experts at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and with researchers across the UK on the project to develop new treatments for pancreatic cancer using a network of clinical trials, aiming to find the right trial for the right patient.

The project aims to speed up recruitment and enrolment of pancreatic cancer patients to clinical trials that are right for the individual patient, with patients being selected based on their individual tumour.

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.

Three initial trials planned as part of this initiative will recruit a total of six hundred and fifty eight patients from a number of centres across the UK with the scope to add more trials in the future. Patients may also be helped onto suitable clinical trials that are already up and running.

At the University of Manchester, Professor Juan Valle, an expert medical oncologist treating pancreatic cancer patients based at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, 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 be too unwell and receive no treatment at all; or if they are given an option it may 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. Christie patients will be invited to participate into the multiple clinical trials developed within the PRECISION-Panc project, once they come on line.”

Professor Caroline Dive, Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute’s Deputy Director and an expert in biopsies, said “Repeat tumour biopsies are challenging for pancreas cancer patients and my laboratory is very excited to be working with clinical colleagues to determine if measuring DNA shed from pancreas cancer tumours into the bloodstream can help us select treatments and monitor patients responses.”

Dr Claus Jorgensen, an expert in pancreas cancer biology at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, said “We aim to grow patient’s pancreas cancer cells in the laboratory and understand how different cells within a patient’s tumour interact with each other to promote growth and resistance to drugs, hence discovering new ways to attack pancreas cancer.”

All three of the researchers agree that the Precision programme will ensure discoveries from the lab rapidly reach patients, and that data from clinical trials feed back into research of the disease.

Cancer Research UK’s investment will support two of the three clinical trials, preclinical work, assay development, biomarker work and the huge amount of molecular sequencing. The charity’s funding will also provide overarching support though project management, funding staff, and a steering committee.

Dr Ian Walker, Cancer Research UK’s director of clinical research, said “This ambitious project marks a new era for pancreatic cancer. Little progress has been made in outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients over the last 40 years, and we believe that PRECISION Panc will reshape how we approach treatment development. Cancer Research UK is determined to streamline research, to find the right clinical trial for all pancreatic cancer patients and to ensure laboratory discoveries have patient benefit.”

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