Professor Andrew Biankin, director of the Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre, at the University of Glasgow, explains: “The average survival for untreated pancreatic cancer is only about 90 days. So, a quick diagnosis is crucial, if we want to ensure that patients receive treatment on time. However, for a cancer with this poor survival, we also need to radically change the way we approach the disease. This includes gaining a deep scientific understanding of its biology, and using the information to improve the way we treat patients. And, with so few treatment options available at the moment, clinical trials have a vitally important role to play.”

“The problem is that pancreatic cancer is not just one disease. There are several types, which require different therapies. So, it’s crucial to know the exact type of pancreatic cancer a patient has, to ensure participation in the right clinical trial,” says Professor Biankin.

He adds that determining the type of pancreatic cancer requires doctors to analyse a sample of the patient’s tumour, through a biopsy. But, this is not currently standard practice. As a result, conducting clinical trials for pancreatic cancer is very difficult, which not only slows down the development of new therapies, but also deprives patients of the opportunity to try treatments that could potentially improve their prognosis.

“The fact is, if you don’t do the necessary tests to determine the type of pancreatic cancer, there won’t be a clinical trial,” explains Professor Biankin. “On the other hand, increasing the number of patients participating in the right clinical trials gives them better options compared to the treatments we have at the moment. So, we are building a multidisciplinary network of scientists, clinicians and industry partners to make this happen.

“What we hope to see, in the near future, is that all people suspected of having pancreatic cancer have immediate access to a fast track system that enables them to get a fast diagnosis, and to be offered a biopsy, attractive clinical trial options, and the possibility to integrate those clinical trials directly onto their treatment.”