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Scientist funded by charity makes breakthrough discovery

 

A researcher has unveiled new research in time for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day

Scottish-funded scientists have shared news of an exciting recent breakthrough in time for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day.

A researcher in the US part-funded by the Scottish cancer research charity, Worldwide Cancer Research, has found a protein in the brain that plays a role in the development and growth of pancreatic cancer.

With Pancreatic Cancer Day taking place today (19 Nov), Dr Edna Cukierman - associate professor at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and co-director of the Marvin and Concetta Greenberg Pancreatic Cancer Institute - and her team have proven that Netrin-G1 (a protein involved with the development of neurons in the brain) helps pancreatic cancer cells survive by protecting them from the immune system and supplying them with nutrients.

From its base in Edinburgh, the small charity, Worldwide Cancer Research, starts bold new cancer cures throughout the UK and the rest of the world. Since 1979, the charity has funded over £200 million worth of research in over 30 countries.

Dr Cukierman said of the discovery: “We found that an antibody that neutralises Netrin-G1 was able to stunt the development and progression of pancreatic tumours and therefore believe this provides a starting point for designing new treatments. Pancreatic cancer is in dire need of new therapies - one day we hope that targeting Netrin-G1 will treat patients in need.”

In the UK over 10,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year and over 9,000 people lose their life to the disease. Pancreatic cancer has one of the worst survival rates of any cancer with only around 1 in 20 people surviving for 10 years or more after their diagnosis. Only 1 in 4 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK will survive beyond one year.

Dr Helen Rippon, chief executive of Worldwide Cancer Research, said: “This is a fascinating new finding in cancer research which shows for the first time how a molecule thought to be involved in the brain is also able to help tumours grow in organs elsewhere in the body.

"We’re delighted to see such great progress from Dr Cukierman’s project which offers a starting point for the future development of treatments against a particularly deadly type of cancer. These positive findings come at a dark time for all of us and are a stark reminder of how dedicated our researchers are – working tirelessly towards new cancer cures even amid a global pandemic. I’m sure this news will be welcomed by all of us who have had to experience the loss of a loved one to cancer.”

Adam Coulson, a husband and father from East Lothian, Scotland, who lost both his parents to cancer, said: “In November 2006 we lost my dad to pancreatic cancer. I was only 22, dad – just 54. Cancer has a devastating effect on our lives. Sadly, there are some cancers that are simply not understood as well as others, and more research is urgently needed in order to improve treatment outcomes and survival rates.”

The current coronavirus pandemic has had a significant financial impact on many sectors, including charity-funded medical research, which contributes nearly half of all the funded medical research in the UK – over £1 billion per year. With concerns rising over delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment, it’s more important than ever that cancer research remains a priority to continue making breakthroughs to save lives and stop suffering. For more information about Worldwide Cancer Research or to make a donation, visit the charity's website.

 

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