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CRUK announces strategic focus on pancreatic and other low survival cancers

30 April 2014

New figures released by Cancer Research UK show that half of all cancer patients are predicted to live for at least 10 years – a significant improvement on figures for the 1970s, when 50% of patients were surviving for one year and only 25% living for 10 years.

The figures come from a study led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which analysed the survival of more than 7 million cancer patients in England and Wales since the 1970s. 

They were released to coincide with an ambitious 5-year strategy launched by CRUK which aims to improve the survival statistics further, so that in 20 years’ time, 75% of cancer patients will survive for at least 10 years beyond diagnosis. Speaking to the Guardian newspaper this week, lead researcher Professor Michel Coleman said  that the latest figures “show just how far we've come in improving cancer survival, but they also shine a spotlight on areas where much more needs to be done."

In contrast to the 10-year survival rate of malignant melanoma patients increasing from 46% to 89% in the last forty years, there is no such cheer for pancreatic, lung, brain and oesophageal cancer patients, which remain classed as “low survival cancers”. Indeed, only 1% of pancreatic cancer patients will live for 10 years or more, and even the 5-year survival rate has barely improved since the 70’s, remaining around 3%.

Alongside a commitment to improving early diagnosis across the board for all cancers, these four low survival cancers will be a prime focus of CRUK’s efforts for the next 5 years.

For pancreatic cancer, CRUK is committing to increase its investment 2-3 fold and prioritise the cancer within its institutes, Centres and certain funding schemes. It will also prioritise initiatives and investments in pancreatic cancer research, and intends to collaboration with pancreatic cancer charities such as PCRF.

CRUK also announced six new funding schemes designed to encourage collaboration and innovation, and will introduce initiatives to attract non-traditional cancer disciplines, such as engineering and physics, into cancer research.

Maggie Blanks, CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund commented:
“This looks like a great start in putting additional focus onto these four low surviving cancers. I’m particularly pleased to see the initiatives to attract non-traditional cancer disciplines into cancer research as I believe an interdisciplinary approach may have much to offer, particularly for cancers such as pancreatic. There’s a great deal of knowledge and expertise that other sciences can bring to the table, so I’m excited to see what this type of collaboration might deliver.

“As the only national charity focusing exclusively on research into pancreatic cancer, we’re making good progress in approaches such as immunotherapy, virotherapy, biomarkers and new drug development. To add this new CRUK research funding into the mix is enormously encouraging, as it will help generate a snowball effect that will accelerate progress into defeating this most lethal of all cancers.”

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