Today on World Pancreatic Cancer Day, Breakthrough Cancer Research and pancreatic cancer survivors are highlighting the urgent need for additional research into this deadly cancer, which has a very poor 5-year survival rate of just 10%.
As we celebrate 10 years of research excellence we recently announced an additional €2 million of funding to push forward new research for the 7 cancers which are responsible for almost half of cancer deaths every year in Ireland, including pancreatic. It is expected that the incidence of these cancers will more than double in the next 30 years.
Pamela Deasy, a survivor of pancreatic cancer from Union Hall in Cork, believes research is the only way. ‘My journey started in 2018. I was having stomach issues and severe tiredness for a few months before going to the doctor. At the start I was given tablets but I was miserable and everything was getting on top of me so I was sent for tests and got my diagnoses. I was shocked. I thought it was game over when I heard the word pancreatic. The survival rate is so low. I thought I needed to get my affairs in order and started writing everything down – mortgage, bank accounts etc. – and thankfully I haven’t had to look at that book since. I had to wait a month before starting chemotherapy and then went on a combined course of radiotherapy, followed by surgery, where they removed a piece of my spleen, intestines, stomach etc. – it was like a rewiring – and then I got the all clear thankfully.’
‘I got involved with Breakthrough Cancer Research earlier this year as I know the importance of research. If I had got my diagnosis 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be here. The more research that is done, the better the treatments will be and the more survivors.’
Orla Dolan, CEO of Breakthrough Cancer Research, said, ‘There are new discoveries and new ideas being developed every day for pancreatic cancer that are just waiting for funding. New knowledge means new ideas and leads to better ways to detect and treat this cancer.
One of the key factors in determining a positive outcome for pancreatic cancer patients is early detection. However, unlike other cancers where you can see or feel a lump, the pancreas is internal. So, by the time people notice something is wrong, the tumour has often grown very large or has already spread outside the pancreas, which makes it more difficult to treat.
There is currently no screening programme or single test to diagnose pancreatic cancer, as it is not a common cancer and has a low survival rate, so this is the first thing that we want to change. The objective of our charity is to fund research that improves outcomes and increases survival rates for all cancers. Every breakthrough brings us closer to a future where all forms of cancer can be treated effectively, and survivorship is greatly increased.’
The €2million funding, which will be allocated to researchers immediately and over the coming six months, was revealed in our new 5-year research strategy Making More Survivors. This strategy highlights Breakthrough’s vision to create 100% survival for 100% of cancers by investing more research funding into the cancers that need the greatest improvement, those that cause the most deaths, and by reducing the time it takes for lab discoveries to get to patients.
Breakthrough has already successfully brought 8 new treatments from the lab to the clinic.
Orla Dolan continued, ‘My own father, a surgeon who founded Cork Cancer Research Centre, died from a poor prognosis cancer so I know first-hand that the worst moment is not when you are told you have a terminal disease but when you are told there is nothing left to try. But we are not powerless to change it – to take away that day. Research will find better ways to detect cancer earlier and treat cancers more effectively.
At Breakthrough, we are confident that through our research, we will make more survivors of the low survival cancers too. We are building research expertise nationally and facilitating innovation to transform cancer care. We are accelerating the translation of lab discoveries into new, better, kinder and smarter diagnostics and treatments. Our vision is bold. We will fund fast and fund smart to help deliver 100% survival for 100% of cancers.’
We have already greenlit several projects for pancreatic cancer, including a novel therapeutic to enhance chemotherapy and radiotherapy sensitivity.