16 November 2023

United Front in the Battle Against Pancreatic Cancer

In a significant global initiative coinciding with World Pancreatic Cancer Day on Thursday, November 16, the soon-to-launch Botton-Champalimaud Pancreatic Cancer Centre in Portugal, in partnership with the Jreissati Pancreatic Centre at Epworth in Australia and the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre – Pancreatic Cancer Programme in the United Kingdom, announces a pioneering collaboration. This alliance, transcending national borders, marks a determined step towards addressing the escalating challenge of pancreatic cancer, which is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most deadly cancers.

United Front in the Battle Against Pancreatic Cancer

A Global Spotlight on a Silent Threat

The exponential rise in pancreatic cancer cases, particularly in industrialised nations, has prompted these leading research centres to join forces. With pancreatic cancer poised to become the second leading cause of cancer death in Europe and the USA within the next two decades, these institutions are emphasising the urgent need for enhanced public awareness about the disease. Their collaborative effort focuses on educating the public about risk factors, early symptoms, and the critical importance of early detection, with a collective aim to improve treatment outcomes and survival rates.

Understanding Pancreatic Cancer

The pancreas, a vital gland located deep inside the abdomen, plays a dual role in digestion and blood sugar regulation. Pancreatic cancer arises from abnormal cell growth in the pancreas gland, leading to tumours. With early symptoms often non-specific, early detection is challenging but crucial for effective treatment.

This cancer manifests primarily in two forms: exocrine tumours (95% of cases, originating in the pancreas ducts lining) and endocrine tumours (5% of cases, beginning in the hormone-producing cells). Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Given the complexity of its early symptoms, the coalition underscores the importance of recognising a combination of symptoms and risk factors.

Key Symptoms and Risk Factors

Early symptoms can include mid-back pain, unexplained weight loss, stomach pain, and jaundice, among others, while risk factors include smoking, obesity, age, type 2 diabetes, chronic alcohol consumption, and family history. A combination of symptoms, risk factors, and diagnostic tests like imaging, endoscopy, and laparoscopy aid in diagnosis.

Outreach and Educational Efforts

To mark World Pancreatic Cancer Day, the collaborating centres will engage in various outreach activities, including informative banners, purple-branded t-shirts, pancreas Q&A cards, quizzes with prizes, and vox pop questions to staff and the public. Social media campaigns, plant and bake sales, and a special webinar open to the public titled “Day-by-Day: Living with Pancreatic Cancer” featuring expert panellists are also part of the day’s events.

Joining Hands to Make a Difference

This collaboration represents a unified front in the global fight against pancreatic cancer. By combining resources, expertise, and a shared commitment to early detection and improved treatment, these centres aim to change the narrative of pancreatic cancer, offering hope to patients worldwide.

More Information on the Collaborating Centres

1. Botton-Champalimaud Pancreatic Cancer Centre

A groundbreaking initiative by the Champalimaud Foundation and philanthropists Mauricio and Charlotte Botton, this centre is the first in the world dedicated to both research and treatment of pancreatic cancer. Funded by a generous €50 million donation, it aims to advance our understanding and control of this disease, often diagnosed in its advanced stages.

2. Jreissati Pancreatic Centre at Epworth

Established by the Jreissati family in collaboration with the Epworth Medical Foundation, this centre is driven by a personal commitment to combat pancreatic cancer. Focusing on early diagnosis, the centre strives to improve patient outcomes significantly through improved treatment, research and education.

3. CRUK Cambridge Centre – Pancreatic Cancer Programme

An integral part of Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Cambridge Centre, this programme unites experts across various disciplines. Their collaborative research aims to bring breakthrough therapies from the lab to the patient's bedside, improving patient outcomes through innovative trials and studies.

Text by Hedi Young, Editor and Science Writer of the Champalimaud Foundation's Communication, Events & Outreach Team.
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