Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap submission

Tuesday, October 13, 2020
The National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap will provide a direction to a better future for Australians impacted by pancreatic cancer.

PanKind, The Australian Pancreatic Cancer Foundation has been investing in research and advocating for more focus and funding for the disease for many years, and we are pleased that the collaborative approach set out by Cancer Australia is, for the first time, set to tackle pancreatic cancer in a coordinated program on a national level. 

We have compiled an overview of our submission below, specifically addressing the "questions to be considered" suggested by Cancer Australia. Our detailed submission will be aligned to the report Cancer of our Generation: A time for Action, that charts a path for dramatically improved outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients and their families.

What do you think are the most important issues to be addressed in pancreatic cancer in Australia?

Research to detect the disease at an earlier stage and provide more effective treatments and support for patients and their families.
Support and care that are on a par with other major cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer and in line with the needs of patients.

The establishment of a Network of Excellence to ensure patients are resected at high volume centres, their cases are considered at multidisciplinary team meetings and a collaborative approach amongst hospitals, clinicians and researchers to ensure that the quest to find a cure is achieved in the fastest time possible.

What do you think could make the biggest difference in improving outcomes for people with pancreatic cancer in Australia?

PanKind considers a 3-fold approach is urgently needed to improve outcomes:

(i) The fast-tracking of research is paramount to improving outcomes.
(ii) Instant support, guidance and care for patients and their carers who face the most difficult of times.
(iii) Create a network of clinical excellence for patient treatment which will allow patients to receive the highest quality of care, regardless of geography.

Are there unique or special challenges and considerations for specific population groups with pancreatic cancer?

Unique challenges for people diagnosed with the disease living in rural and regional areas with significant additional costs if needing to go to a major centre for any part of their treatment. Language and cultural barriers for those who do not have English as a first language. Australia is a multicultural country and should cater to the needs of population groups. Older patients are underrepresented in clinical trials (can be due to the presence of comorbidities) and may not be referred for surgery. Managing the financial burden of the disease while potentially the patient is no longer able to work and in many instances the carer too.

What do you think are the main challenges and opportunities in the clinical care of pancreatic cancer in Australia?

  • Late diagnosis due to silent symptoms or doctors not considering that the symptoms can be associated with the disease (more than 80% of pancreatic cancers have spread from the pancreas to other organs when they are first diagnosed). Methods of early detection and diagnoses should be explored.
  • All patients should be discussed at MDT meetings and resections should only be carried out at high-volume centres.
  • A collaborative approach across centres treating the disease leading to the establishment of networks of excellence. More supportive care for patients and their carers is desperately needed.

What do you think are the main challenges and opportunities for research into pancreatic cancer (including basic research and clinical trials)?

Identification of biomarkers so that early detection tests can be developed. We need to learn more about why pancreatic cancer is traditionally resistant to even the most advanced therapies. A greater understanding of the pancreatic cancer microenvironment is also needed. Further investment to identify novel therapeutics including the repurposing of existing medicines and unravelling the disease's resistance to immunotherapy. A national approach to innovative clinical trials leveraging existing infrastructure or promising studies is required to accelerate from the lab to the clinic.

Do you have any other comments and/or insights from your own experience with pancreatic cancer that you think would be helpful to inform the Roadmap?

We call on the government to invest significantly to address the needs of one of the deadliest, most common cancers across research, patient and carer support and a Network of Excellence.

Have your say - take 5 minutes to make a submission easily online.