This year, more than 800 British Columbians will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It’s projected that only 10 per cent (or 80 of those people diagnosed) will live five years.
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect at an early stage and is often resistant to treatment. Although it is the tenth most common cancer in Canada, it is the fourth leading cause of cancer death.
Unless more effective treatment strategies are found, pancreatic cancer in Canada is projected to become the second leading cause of cancer death by 2030.
For patients facing pancreatic cancer, time is precious. While the experts at BC Cancer have made significant progress in breaking down pancreatic cancer in the labs and clinics, for some patients this isn’t happening fast enough.
Patients often need to be seen by several specialists and there can be significant delays in arranging these appointments and subsequent tests. During this time, the cancer can progress.
To help reduce the time elapsed between diagnosis and the start of treatment, Dr. Daniel Renouf, BC Cancer medical oncologist and clinician-scientist, has a vision to create a rapid access clinic at BC Cancer, where:
Thanks to generous support from Hope Couture 2019, BC Cancer’s pancreatic team has begun to establish a Pancreatic Cancer Rapid Access Clinic (RAC) to consolidate consults, expedite testing, perform genetic profiling at the time of diagnosis and deliver the most effective treatment options to patients.
Over the next 10 years, BC Cancer experts will need greater access to equipment, facilities and recruitment to advance research goals and enhance patient care. Donor support will accelerate discovery and strengthen the team as program goals expand.
GENE SEQUENCING FINDS HEREDITARY LINK AND SEARCHES FOR EFFECTIVE TREATMENTS
Founded in 2012, Pancreas Centre BC is a unique partnership between the BC Cancer, Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia.
Co-directors Drs. Dan Renouf and David F. Schaeffer, and their colleagues, are determined to improve the global understanding of this elusive disease and bring hope to patients and their families. Priorities include examining full genome sequencing of tumours to identify the cause of gene mutations, developing new treatments, improving existing treatments, and improving early detection.
Early detection of pancreatic cancer is a key cornerstone of research for Pancreas Centre BC. One of the goals is to develop a blood test to detect pancreatic cancer earlier. Better understanding and subtyping (finding smaller groups with shared characteristics) of metastatic pancreatic cancer will aid researchers in developing new avenues for early detection testing.
THE BIOBANK PROGRAM ANALYZING TUMOUR SAMPLES TO BETTER UNDERSTAND THE DISEASE
Thanks to the support of an anonymous donor, Pancreas Centre BC established the Biobank and Genetic Evaluation Program for Patients with Advanced Pancreatic Cancer in 2015. The main focus of the Biobank Program is to determine genetic changes associated with pancreatic cancer. Current aims include collecting pancreatic cancer tissue from patients with advanced disease, making metastatic cancer tissue available to researchers through the biobank, and identifying genetic changes associated with advanced pancreatic cancer.
Since its inception, the biobank has collected more than 325 pancreatic tumour samples. Those tissue samples will be used in the ongoing effort to root out the molecular causes driving advanced pancreatic cancer.
Although the risk factors for pancreatic cancer are not well known, it is known that there’s a genetic link to the disease through BRCA1/2 and other gene mutations, which can lead to an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer for some individuals and families. By identifying a hereditary risk, BC Cancer experts can help stop pancreatic cancer before it starts.
CLINICAL TRIALS ARE SUPPORTING INNOVATIVE TREATMENT OPTIONS
The Biobank Program also helps support a multi-site clinical trial called PanGen (Prospectively Defining Metastatic Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma Subtypes by Comprehensive Genomic Analysis).
PanGen is an innovative study that involves sequencing metastatic tumours in the hopes of better understanding the pathways that are driving growth and identifying more effective treatment. Researchers closely monitor patients from the time of diagnosis through treatment, genetically sequencing tumours and evaluating treatment response with regular blood tests and imaging.
By applying personalized genomic analysis to pancreatic cancer tumours, the PanGen team hopes to identify unique biomarkers that will result in more effective treatments.
Help BC Cancer improve early detection and develop better treatments for pancreatic cancer.