The UK delivers world’s first national pancreas tissue bank
Pancreatic Cancer In January 2016, after three years of painstaking discussions, deliberations and legal agreements, the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund Tissue Bank launched, with the aim of accelerating research into the most lethal cancer.
It’s a hugely ambitious project to launch a world first like this – and I have to admit, a little daunting, to commit £2 million of our supporters’ hard-earned donations to a single initiative.
So why did we do it?
Since the charity was founded in 2004, our determination to tackle this disease has seen us channel over £6 million into forty cutting edge research projects across the UK and Ireland. And we’re making progress – we announced research results that could deliver a urine test to diagnose the disease in its earliest stages, clinical trials are about to start on new potential treatments we helped progress, and a novel drug is being developed, all thanks to our support.
But beating pancreatic cancer once and for all is some way off yet. Highly aggressive and complex, pancreatic cancer retains the unenviable title of being the cancer with the worst 5-year survival rate, remaining stubbornly at 3 per cent. So we asked the researcher community, “What else can we do to help you make these breakthroughs faster and to get them to patients faster? More money? More equipment? More opportunities to collaborate?”
And while all of these things were cited, the overwhelming need turned out to be “more tissue”.
With pancreatic cancer, real tumour tissue on which to conduct research is a precious resource. Around 9,000 people are diagnosed each year in the UK but only around 15% of patients are diagnosed early enough for surgery to remove the tumour. This means there’s a distinct lack of tumour tissue available to answer key questions about this disease and to test new treatment ideas. This is seriously hampering progress.
Creating something unique
This is why we decided to create something in the UK that didn’t exist anywhere else. A nationally co-ordinated pancreas tissue bank would provide the raw materials that researchers need to answer these questions.
The Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund Tissue Bank is a collaboration between six NHS Trusts in the UK, each renowned for its treatment in pancreatic cancer – and we’re already in discussion with others. Patients undergoing pancreas surgery at participating hospitals in London, Southampton, Oxford, Leicester and Swansea will be asked for their consent to save some of their removed tissue for research. This tissue will be collected and stored in specialised facilities using consistent procedures and the highest quality controls. It will be logged alongside information about the type and grade of tumour and the treatment history of its anonymous donor. This means that more research can be carried out - and faster. In addition, the consistency of collection and storage means that research using our Tissue Bank samples will be highly reliable and therefore more meaningful.
Researchers who successfully apply for tissue samples have to feedback data from their research projects to a database that is to be freely available to shape, underpin and progress other research projects taking place all over the world.
We’re extremely proud and excited to have delivered the Tissue Bank and to be making this significant contribution to research. It will be an international resource, but one designed to keep the UK at the forefront of global efforts to beat pancreatic cancer.