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Petition Increase investment in Pancreatic Cancer research

Research into this cancer has been underfunded for decades. It only receives 2% of the UK cancer research budget. This is 3 times less than research spent on breast cancer. By investing in researchers, earlier diagnosis & better treatments & care can be found to treat one of the deadliest cancers.

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More than half of patients die within 3 months of diagnosis, for my Grandfather it was just 9 days. Diagnosis of this cancer can take a long time, often with many visits to the doctors & possible misdiagnoses along the way. Around 80% of pancreatic cancer patients are not diagnosed until the cancer is at an advanced stage. At this late stage, surgery is usually not possible – this is the only known treatment that has the potential to cure the disease.

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Government responded

This response was given on 23 April 2021

The Department of Health and Social Care’s National Institute for Health Research is funding and supporting a wide range of pancreatic cancer research, and would welcome more funding applications.

Research is crucial in the fight against cancer. That is why the Department of Health and Social Care invests £1bn per year in health research through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). NIHR cancer research expenditure has risen from £101 million in 2010/11 to £138 million in 2019/20. This constitutes the largest investment in a disease area.

The Department welcomes more high-quality research applications on pancreatic cancer, and especially on early diagnosis. The Department is relying on researchers to develop proposals in this difficult area. In this respect, the Department particularly welcomes Pancreatic Cancer UK’s Early Diagnosis Research Alliance initiative, which aims to bring researchers together to share their thinking. The Department hopes this will generate ground-breaking research ideas and stands ready to fund such ideas through the NIHR.

The NIHR is funding a range of pancreatic cancer research. Some examples include:

• Treatment of unresectable Locally Advanced Pancreas (LAP) cancer with Percutaneous Irreversible Electroporation (PIE) following initial systemic chemotherapy (£246K)Translational proteomics to understand and overcome drug resistance to targeted anticancer drugs in KRAS and PIK3CA driven cancers (£1.9m)

• A phase II trial of endoscopic ultrasound-guided radiofrequency ablation of cystic tumours of the pancreas (RADIOCYST) (£291k)


The NIHR is also supporting the delivery in the health and care system of pancreatic cancer research funded by research funding partners in the charity and public sectors. For example, over the last five years the NIHR Clinical Research Network has supported over 100 pancreatic cancer studies at an estimated cost of over £3 million per year.

Together with NHS England, NHS Improvement and the National Cancer Research Institute, the Department joined the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce research roundtable event, which included pancreatic cancer, to consider how the number of high-quality research applications can be increased for these difficult-to-treat cancers. For more information on the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce, please visit: http://lesssurvivablecancers.org.uk/

Increasing the number of cancers that are diagnosed earlier is a top priority for the Government and the NHS. This is why the NHS Long Term Plan sets an ambition to diagnose 75% of cancers at stage 1 or 2 by 2028. To deliver on this ambition, NHS England and Improvement are setting up Rapid Diagnostic Centres (RDCs) which bring together diagnostic equipment and expertise to streamline diagnostic services for cancer. Currently, there are 65 RDC pathways live across England.

Cancer Alliances are using the RDC model to improve the diagnostic experience for patients who are suspected of having particular cancers, including pancreatic cancer. And, while lower than for other cancers, early diagnosis rates for pancreatic cancer have been improving, increasing by 2.9 percentage points between 2014 and 2017, from 21.0% to 23.9%. As a result, survival rates have also steadily increased.

NHS England will be introducing a Faster Diagnostic Standard of 28 days for all cancer patients, including those with pancreatic cancer, which when taken together with the 62-day referral to treatment standard, will mean that all patients should expect to start their treatment within 34 days of diagnosis. This is a maximum, and Trusts should continue to treat patients more quickly particularly where there is a strong clinical need.

Systems will be expected to meet the new Faster Diagnosis Standard from Q3, to be introduced initially at a level of 75%. To support delivery, Faster Diagnosis Standard data will begin to be published from spring 2021.

As we seek to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer, Public Health England (PHE) have launched a Campaign Resource Centre, which will deliver its award-winning marketing campaigns on a local level. For more information, please click on the following link: https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/resources/campaigns

The Department have worked throughout the pandemic to ensure that cancer treatment has continued, with the latest data showing cancer treatment is being maintained at nearly 90% of pre-pandemic levels.

NHS England & Improvement has been working closely with local cancer alliances to establish action plans across systems. The establishment of safe Covid-19-protected surgical hubs has been a key part of these plans. These hubs protect cancer patients from immunocompromised infection. All 21 cancer alliances across England now have arrangements in place for cancer hubs.

Department for Health and Social Care

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