Research team awarded $100,000 to investigate health care for pancreatic cancer patients

Professor John Zalcberg from the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine is leading a multi-disciplinary team awarded $100,000 from the Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation yesterday. The announcement of the award coincided with World Pancreatic Cancer Day.

The group will compare European and Australian pancreatic cancer healthcare practices.

Surgically removing pancreatic tumours is the only chance for potentially curing patients. Professor Zalcberg and his team will investigate speculation that Australian patients with potentially operable pancreatic tumours are not being offered surgery to the same extent as similar groups of patients in Europe, potentially impacting long-term survival.

The team of researchers, radiologists and surgeons will use their funding to create an ‘image biobank’ which will securely store pancreatic CT scans from patients with pancreatic cancer in the Victorian Upper GI Cancer Registry. This registry already stores over 75% of patients with pancreatic cancer in Victoria.

The team will use the Registry to monitor whether patients with operable, or potentially operable pancreatic tumours are being offered possibly curative surgery by reviewing the images with an international group of experts.

100 patients with non-metastatic cancer who have already gone through their treatment will be chosen at random, and their images shown to a ‘blinded’ international expert panel. This panel will then assess the operability of the cancer and compare this decision to the actual treatment decisions already made.

Professor Zalcberg’s goals are to determine whether European and Australian assessment of pancreatic cancer patients with non-metastatic tumours differ, and whether surgical approaches are pivotal to survival.

“We are pleased to award funding to this innovative project.” said Michelle Stewart, CEO of the Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, “We are encouraged by the high calibre of the research and believe that investment into projects like these will help us to increase survival for people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer”.

This grant is a part of a total $600,000 from the Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation to be awarded equally to six pancreatic cancer scientists in Australian research institutions.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal cancers with a current 5-year survival rate of just 9.8%, and four out of every five patients diagnosed face a median survival of less than 12 months.

Over 3,200 people are diagnosed each year, with the disease claiming virtually the same amount of lives as breast cancer in Australia. Most patients will be diagnosed with late stage, metastatic cancer as the disease is extremely difficult to detect in its early stages and with no distinct early warning signs, pancreatic cancer is a debilitating disease that remains chronically under-funded.

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