Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the 8th most commonly occurring cancer in Australia, affecting approximately 3,700 people each year. However, due to the very poor survival, it is the 4th most common cause of cancer death; each year approximately 3,000 Australians lose their lives to pancreatic cancer1 .

The poor survival is due to a combination of diagnosis occurring late, when most tumours have spread beyond the pancreas and are no longer able to be surgically removed, and a lack of effective treatments for advanced disease. This presents unique management challenges, as there is no clearly defined treatment pathway. Further, the rapid course of pancreatic cancer leaves many patients and their families with insufficient time to come to terms with their illness, causing extremely high levels of distress.

Reducing the impact of pancreatic cancer requires research across the cancer control spectrum, including reducing risk, early diagnosis, better treatments, ensuring all patients receive optimal management, and providing adequate support to patients and families faced with this devastating disease.



  • improving support for caregivers of people with pancreatic cancer: QIMR Berghofer is leading a hybrid effectiveness – implementation trial of a counselling intervention for caregivers, in collaboration with the Avner Pancreatic Cancer foundation and funded by the Medical Research Future Fund. If our nurse-led telehealth counselling service improves outcomes for patients and families we anticipate this will become standard of care in future
  • investigating the absolute risk of pancreatic cancer in people newly diagnosed with diabetes, and identifying the characteristics of patients who develop pancreatic cancer: people with diabetes are at increased risk of pancreatic cancer, but most people with diabetes do not develop pancreatic cancer. Identifying a subgroup of people with diabetes who are at markedly increased risk will inform decisions about screening people at high risk. We are using national linked data for this analysis
  • identifying new blood markers that could be used to diagnose pancreatic cancer
  • studying the genomic, transcriptomic and methylation landscape of pancreatic cancer to improve our understanding of why these tumours develop and find treatment targets


in 2020, Professor Neale completed the development of guidelines to support primary care practitioners in determining which patients should undergo investigation for pancreatic cancer. Click here to access the current guidelines:





  1. Australian Institute of Health & Wellness (AIHW)



The Pancreatic Cancer Pathways to Diagnosis Study (the Pathways Study) aims to talk to people who have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer to gain a detailed understanding of the ways in which Australians reach their diagnosis. This will help us to develop strategies to help future patients receive their diagnosis quickly.



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