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Coronation Street actress visits PCRF-funded researchers in Manchester

12 December 2013

Actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, who plays pancreatic cancer patient Hayley Cropper in ITV's Coronation Street, has visited the University of Manchester to look at work being done by scientists to fight the disease.

l-r Prof Caroline Dive, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Maggie Blanks

Julie joined PCRF founder Maggie Blanks to meet Professor Caroline Dive and her team who are working on a two-year study funded by the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund.

Julie’s character Hayley was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given six months to live in the soap back in September. Since then Julie has had contact from dozens of families who have lost loved ones to the cancer and is helping to raise the profile of the disease as well as calling for more funding for research.

Professor Dive, from the University’s Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology Group, explained how her £150,000 research project is analysing stray tumour cells that circulate in the blood. She hopes it will pave the way to profiling the molecular characteristics of patients’ pancreatic tumours from a single blood test. Julie also met Professor Richard Marais who heads the research carried out in the University’s Paterson Building.  

The Manchester team hopes to set up clinical trials to both tailor treatments for individual patients, based on the analysis of their tumour type, and monitor the effectiveness of their treatment regime.

Julie said: “It’s been really exciting to be shown what’s happening at the cutting edge of research into pancreatic cancer, and fantastic to see that this research is taking place right here in Manchester. I've learnt so much!

“When I first found out about the storyline I knew very little about pancreatic cancer but since then I’ve met some wonderful people and have been trying to support more funding for research in this area.

“Pancreatic cancer has worst survival rate of any common cancer – only 3 in every 100 people diagnosed will live beyond 5 years and we need to see more investment so that scientists, like the ones I’ve met today in Manchester, can continue to make steps forward to find ways to fight this disease.”

Professor Marais said: "New research is urgently needed if we are to improve outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients. Our scientists here in Manchester are conducting laboratory research that will inform patient treatment. We are very grateful to the wonderful supporters of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund for their continued donations that allow us to perform this important research."

Maggie added: “The world-class research we fund at the University of Manchester is a great example of how we can drive progress to find new, more successful treatments that are personalised to the individual needs of the patient, rather than the ‘one-size fits all’ approach, which is the only option available to clinicians.

“Julie’s help in raising awareness of this disease is wonderful and I hope this translates into more research money being made available for pancreatic cancer as it’s the only way we can improve the shockingly low survival rates.”

(Photo l-r: Professor Caroline Dive, Julie Hesmondhalgh and Maggie Blanks)

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