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New study begins: Queensland Pancreatic Cancer Study

Scientists at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research have commenced Australia’s first study into the causes of pancreatic cancer, the fourth most common cause of cancer death in Western Countries.

QIMR’s Dr Rachel Neale and her team will be working closely with a network of doctors to identify and recruit patients for the study, based at the Clive Berghofer Cancer Research Centre.

She said that the study faces a number of challenges given the nature of pancreatic cancer, two major factors being the poor prognosis for patients and the limited time researchers will then have to interview them.

“It’s a fatal cancer and in fact, less than 5% of patients have a 5 year survival rate,” Dr Neale said.

“Sadly, people are often diagnosed during the later stages of pancreatic cancer and given only a matter of weeks to live.

“It’s critical that we are notified when a willing patient is found, so we can obtain vital information which may help us determine the causes of this sinister cancer.”

In Queensland, some 350 cases of pancreatic cancer have been recorded in the past 12 months which equates to almost one person per day and around Australia, there are 1,800 cases annually (i.e. nearly 5 people per day which is almost 1 person every 5 hours).

There are some known risk factors for pancreatic cancer which include: smoking, age (80% of cases develop between 60 and 80 years) gender (it occurs more commonly in men) and diabetes.

“We’re examining a series of other risk factors, including aspects of medical history, diet, occupational exposures and infection,” Dr Neale adds.

“Importantly, we’re going to assess whether or not genetic profile is able to modify the way in which we respond to certain exposures.”

At this stage, QIMR is recruiting pancreatic cancer patients and is encouraging patients or their relatives to contact Lisa Braatvedt.