Over60 native article for the Garvan Institute
With a five-year survival rate of just 7.7 per cent, pancreatic cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Australia – but awareness of the disease is at an alarmingly low 15 per cent, research from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research has found. As a result, research into pancreatic cancer isn’t receiving the funds it desperately needs to find a potential breakthrough.
It’s not just the cancer that people aren’t aware of, however. A staggering 83 per cent of Australians aren’t even sure of the organ’s function – to secrete digestion-aiding enzymes and produce hormones that help regulate the metabolism of sugar. Furthermore, 77 per cent of people have an incorrect view of the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
Unfortunately, correct symptoms of the disease, such as upper abdominal pain, jaundice, loss of appetite, weight loss, depression and blood clots, may not present themselves until the cancer is at such an advanced stage that surgical intervention is no longer possible.
So, a recent breakthrough from Australian and UK scientists couldn’t have come at a better time. Associate Professor Paul Timpson, Head of Invasion and Metastasis at the Garvan Institute, and Professor Kurt Anderson of the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, UK, have created a “biosensor mouse” which allows them to track the disease’s progression – and perhaps even stop it in its tracks.
To find out more about this incredible innovation, Over60 spoke to Associate Professor Paul Timpson. “We’ve made a green glow-in-the-dark mouse that can show a pancreatic cancer tumour getting ready to break apart and spread throughout the body before it even occurs,” he explains.