Pancreatic Cancer: Research

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 27th February 2020.

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Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Conservative, New Forest East

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what funding from the public purse has been allocated to research into pancreatic cancer in each of the last three years; what progress has been made on the early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer; for what reasons pancreatic cancer patients in the UK have lower rates for surviving five years after diagnosis compared with other European countries; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The Department invests £1 billion per year in health research through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). As with other Government funders of health research, the NIHR does not allocate funding for specific disease areas. The level of research spend in a particular area, is driven by factors including scientific potential and the number and scale of successful funding applications.

Early diagnosis rates for pancreatic cancer increased by 2.9 percentage points between 2014 and 2017, from 21.0% to 23.9%, and improving early diagnosis of cancer is a top priority for the NHS. One of the core ambitions in the NHS Long Term Plan is to diagnose 75% of cancers at stage 1 or 2 by 2028 to save 55,000 lives a year. Cancer Alliances in England are using the Rapid Diagnostic Cancer model to improve the diagnostic experience for patients who are suspected of having particular cancers including pancreatic cancer.

United Kingdom survival rates for cancer have never been higher and continue to improve, but there is more work to do to boost survival for all cancers. However, the rates of five year survival for pancreatic cancer are unfortunately very low everywhere. The rates in England (4%) are below the reported average in Europe (6%). The differences between countries may reflect differences in cancer biology, varying availability of diagnostic tests, the stage at diagnosis and data collection practices. Access to computed tomography scanning (the most commonly-used diagnostic test) is important which is why the Government recently announced £200 million to upgrade cancer diagnostic equipment in England.

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