A new era in precision medicine for pancreatic cancer

Author:Dr Derek O'Reilly

Author: Dr Derek O'Reilly

Consultant Hepatobiliary & Pancreatic Surgeon

Dr Derek O’Reilly blogs about an important investment by Cancer Research UK into pancreatic cancer research and how Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is involved in this work.

The development of new treatments for pancreatic cancer is set to be transformed by a network of clinical trials, aiming to find the right trial for the right patient, after a £10 million investment from Cancer Research UK.

Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest of cancers

The investment will support the PRECISION Panc project, which aims to develop personalised treatments for pancreatic cancer patients. This aims to improve the options and outcomes for a disease where survival rates have remained stubbornly low. Currently, only 5% of people diagnosed today with pancreatic cancer will still be alive five years later. Incredibly, this figure has not changed for the past 50 years.  So while tremendous improvements have been made in the treatment of other cancers, the relative position of pancreatic cancer has deteriorated. Today, pancreatic cancer is the fifth leading cause of a cause of cancer death in the UK and second in the USA.


Image source: Pancreatic Cancer Action

What is PRECISION Panc?

The PRECISION Panc project is a unique UK collaboration – based in Glasgow, Manchester, Cambridge, Oxford and London, which aims to develop personalised treatments, to improve the options and outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients.

The project aims to speed up recruitment and enrolment of pancreatic cancer patients to clinical trials that are right for the individual patient, with patients being selected based on the genome of their individual tumour.

The first wave of research will establish the best way to collect and profile patient tissue samples. Each patient will have samples taken from their tumour at diagnosis at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust for analysis. Three initial trials planned as part of this initiative will recruit patients from a number of centres across the UK – with the scope to add more trials in the future. Patients may also be helped onto other suitable clinical trials that are already up and running.

Scientific research will be undertaken in Manchester

Scientists from the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, based at The University of Manchester will receive £1.2million of the Cancer Research UK funding to develop new treatments for pancreatic cancer.

Projects will measure DNA shed from pancreas cancer tumours into the bloodstream to help select treatments and monitor patients’ responses. Other laboratories will grow patients’ pancreas cancer cells, to understand how different cells interact with each other. This will help explain how cells in the tumour’s local environment promote cancer cell growth and how resistance to drugs develop. This work will facilitate the discovery of new ways to treat pancreas cancer.

Hope at last for pancreatic cancer

PRECISION Panc has been developed over the course of many years through the unwavering commitment of pancreatic clinicians and researchers who recognise that patients deserve much more than is currently available to them. Chief Investigator, Professor Andrew Biankin, of the University of Glasgow, said: “This ambitious project marks a new era for pancreatic cancer. Little progress has been made in outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients over the last 50 years, and we believe that PRECISION Panc will reshape how we approach treatment development.”

Find out more

For more on the science of how pancreatic cancer genomes will influence clinical management and therapeutic development:

For more information for patients:

To follow our progress on Twitter:

@precisionpanc @DerekAOReilly