Past research into pancreatic cancer

Bottles and equipment in a fume cupboard

Our strategy

A scientist

For the past 120 years, we’ve been making discoveries that have saved countless lives. But we have so much more to do. Our strategy sets out how we'll accelerate progress towards a better future.

Our milestones

Our scientists have made vital contributions to finding new and better ways to treat pancreatic cancer. Below are a few of our most important discoveries.

2010 – Our scientists reveal that one way a rogue protein called K-ras helps pancreatic cancer grow is by working with a ‘detox’ molecule that normally protects our cells. Then in 2015 we find that faulty versions of K-ras hijack vital self-destruct switches in cells, making pancreatic cancer more aggressive. Faults in the KRAS gene are found in the majority of pancreatic cancers, so understanding how it causes pancreatic cancer is crucial for finding new ways to treat the disease.

2012 – An intriguing new piece of research shows how chemical 'tags' on DNA might play a role in pancreatic cancer growth, which opens up possibilities of testing drugs that strip away these tags. 

2012 – Our researchers develop an important new way of hunting down faulty genes linked to pancreatic cancer, by using 'jumping genes' called transposons.

2015 – Patients could get the best drugs for their disease in the future, after we find that pancreatic cancer can be split into four unique types. This discovery laid the groundwork for funding the first programme of clinical trials testing personalised treatments for the disease.

1989 – We fund the biggest pancreatic cancer trial of its time – the ESPAC1 trial. This ground-breaking study goes on to become a series of practice-changing trials that help transform the outlook for people with this hard-to-treat disease. In 2004 the first results from the ESPAC1 trial show that patients given additional chemotherapy after surgery had a 15% higher chance of surviving five years or more, and had a better quality of life.

2005 – People with advanced pancreatic cancer are given precious extra time after our GEMCAP trial finds that two chemotherapy drugs are better than one, significantly boosting survival. This combination therapy then became the new standard of care for patients with late stage pancreatic cancer that can’t be operated on.

2010 – Results from our ESPAC-3 study show that a commonly used chemotherapy is as effective at helping to prevent pancreatic cancer returning after surgery as the standard of care chemotherapy, giving patients whose cancer doesn't respond to treatment an extra lifeline. And in 2017 results from the next trial in the series, ESPAC-4, show that a combination of two chemotherapy drugs – gemcitabine and capecitabine – is the best choice for patients who have recently had surgery to remove their cancer.

2017 – We launch a project we're helping to support that will transform the development of new treatments for pancreatic cancer. The PRECISIONPanc project aims to develop personalised treatments for pancreatic cancer, and make it easier and quicker for patients to join the right clinical trial for them.   

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