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 criteria are applied in determining the level of funding of research into pancreatic cancer relative to investment in research into other types of cancer; what assessment has been made of the prognosis for surviving pancreatic cancer relative to that for surviving other types of cancer; and what assessment he has made of whether pancreatic cancer survival rates would be improved by (a) greater public awareness of its symptoms and (b) earlier diagnosis of the disease.

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). The NIHR welcomes funding applications for research into any aspect of human health, including pancreatic cancer. 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.

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. The rates of five year survival for pancreatic cancer are unfortunately very low everywhere.

Improving early diagnosis of cancer is key for cancer survival, and is a priority for this Government. In October 2018, the Government announced a package of measures that will be rolled out across the country with the aim of seeing three quarters of all cancers detected at an early stage by 2028. The early diagnosis ambition includes rare and less common cancers and those that are less survivable, such as pancreatic cancer. Success cannot realistically be achieved without making progress on these cancers. Early diagnosis rates for pancreatic cancer increased by 2.9 percentage points between 2014 and 2017, from 21.0% to 23.9%.

NHS England is establishing Rapid Diagnostic Centres (RDCs) across the country to bring together the latest diagnostic equipment and expertise. This programme builds on the Multidisciplinary Diagnostic Centre model piloted through the Accelerate, Coordinate and Evaluate programme, which focussed on diagnosing cancers where patients often present with non-specific symptoms and may go to their general practitioner many times before being sent for appropriate tests.

Cancer Alliances are using the RDC model to improve the diagnostic experience for patients who are suspected of having particular cancers including pancreatic, head and neck, and skin cancers.

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