News ID: 176421
Published: 1213 GMT January 25, 2017

Fight against pancreatic cancer takes 'monumental leap forward'

Fight against pancreatic cancer takes 'monumental leap forward'

Scientists have made a 'monumental leap forward' in the treatment of pancreatic cancer after discovering using two drugs together dramatically improved patients’ chances of living more than five years after diagnosis.

The cancer is one of the hardest to treat and, consequently, has one of the lowest survival rates, according to

In medical trials, researchers found that 29 percent of patients given two chemotherapy drugs, gemcitabine and capecitabine, were still alive five years after diagnosis.

They said the new form of treatment could double the number of patients would live that long.

Professor John Neoptolemos, of Liverpool University, who led the research, said: “This is one of the biggest-ever breakthroughs prolonging survival for pancreatic cancer patients.

“When this combination becomes the new standard of care, it will give many patients living with the disease valuable months and even years.”

The trial also found that 16 percent of patients given only gemcitabine were still alive five years later.

Leanne Reynolds, head of research at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “These results are a monumental leap forward in pancreatic cancer treatment.

“We believe this could herald a true step change in the treatment of this tough cancer, offering substantially more patients who have had surgery the chance to live for longer and crucially without significant added side effects.

“It is wonderful to hear of such positive results which will offer hope to hundreds of people with this disease and their families.

“We must now embrace this opportunity to provide those families with far more precious time together.”

“Since the early 1970s, there has been so little progress for patients in research, treatments and survival rates.

“Golden opportunities like this to transform patients' lives do not come along often, so we must grab this one with both hands.”

Around 9,400 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and around 8,800 people die from the disease every year in the UK.

Peter Breaden, a 67-year-old retired laboratory manager and a grandfather of five from Merseyside, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April 2010 and was offered the chance to take part in the trial.

He said, “I know that new drugs and techniques need to be developed so when the doctors told me about the trial, there was no hesitation in my mind — I wanted to get involved.

 “I was very grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this trial. I am pleased to have been part of a trial that has been such a success. Research is absolutely essential and needs all our support.”

Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said that the medical world urgently needs new ways to treat and manage the disease.

“Research that tells us more about how the disease grows and spreads — and trials like this one — will be key to improve survival for patients living with the disease.

“There are still big leaps to be made, but Cancer Research UK is investing heavily into research to take on pancreatic cancer, and we are just starting to see the results.”

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