Nottingham researchers tackle spread of pancreatic cancer

27 Nov 2015 15:42:59.573

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Nottingham scientists are investigating potential new ways of fighting a cancer which has the lowest survival rate of all common cancers.

National charity, Pancreatic Cancer UK is funding the new study which will examine how pancreatic cancer cells spread into surrounding tissue. Dr Lodewijk Dekker from The University of Nottingham’s School of Pharmacy will be working with colleagues from the School of Medicine and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Only four per cent of people with pancreatic cancer live for five years or more after diagnosis. It is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths yet receives only 1.4 per cent of the total cancer research spend in the UK*. The announcement of the new research comes during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Week which this month has been promoting the importance of funding and public awareness to improve diagnosis and treatments. 

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Dr Dekker said: “My team – based here in Nottingham – is already very excited that we have been able to identify small compounds that could stop cancer cell invasion.

“The compounds we’ve identified work by interrupting interactions between two proteins that are found on the surface of pancreatic cancer cells. By using these compounds we can prevent the proteins from forming a complex that we believe would normally contribute to changes in tumour size and the spread of the cancer cells.”

Alex Ford, CEO of Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “As a charity that represents people with pancreatic cancer and their families, we have a responsibility to tackle the huge issue of under-funding into pancreatic cancer research as well as encourage the exploration of cutting edge ideas which could lead to important progress in the fight against pancreatic cancer. Funding innovative research is essential if we are to see an increase in survival rates for this deadly disease.

“That’s why we are delighted to be announcing this research award in Nottingham as part of the latest round of grants awarded under our Research Innovation Fund. We are confident that the projects we have chosen to fund have the potential to truly change the lives of people with pancreatic cancer in the future, and hopefully allow patients to live for longer. We’re extremely excited to be working with these new researchers and look forward to seeing the results develop.”

Dr Dekker is based in the School of Pharmacy at The University of Nottingham which is universally recognised as a world leader for research in the design and use of drugs and medicines, and has a particular focus on translating research findings into clinical practice in order to see impact for patients.

The Research Innovation Fund awards were approved by Pancreatic Cancer UK’s Scientific Advisory Board, which has membership drawn from leading scientists from across the world. Seven other grants were awarded under this scheme this year, secured by researchers based at institutions throughout the UK including London, Glasgow and Dundee.

To find out more about the fund, visit

*Research spend of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) - representing the majority of cancer research investment undertaken in the UK

About pancreatic cancer: 

  • One person dies of pancreatic cancer every hour.
  • The disease has the lowest survival rate of all the 21 common cancers, with just four per cent of people living for five years or more after diagnosis, and just one per cent surviving 10 years
  • Five and ten year survival for pancreatic cancer has improved very little since the early 1970s.
  • Around 8,800 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer per year in the UK. That’s 24 people every day.
  • Pancreatic cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death in the UK
  • Pancreatic cancer is predicted to become the fourth largest cancer killer (overtaking breast cancer) by 2030.
  • Pancreatic cancer statistics quoted are from Cancer Research UK.

About Pancreatic Cancer UK:

  • Pancreatic Cancer UK is the only national charity fighting pancreatic cancer on all fronts: support, information, campaigning and research. We are striving for a long and good life for everyone diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
  • For further information on pancreatic cancer, visit
  • To speak to a specialist nurse about symptoms, diagnosis or treatment, call Pancreatic Cancer UK’s freephone Support Line on 0808 801 0707.
  • We provide an expert, personalised support and information service, with the ultimate aim of enabling patients to enjoy an extended, happy and fulfilled life, bringing hope to them and their families.
  • We fund innovative research that makes the most impact with limited resources and leverages additional investment - and development of new talent - through our own research expenditure.
  • Working closely with patients and their families and carers, clinicians and other healthcare professionals, researchers, politicians and policy makers we seek to increase awareness of the disease and campaign to bring about change

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Research Project of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2014. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK by research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for three years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Lodewijk Dekker in the School of Pharmacy, University of Nottingham

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