Putting our region's cancer needs first

North West Cancer Research Funded Team Advancing Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

A team of scientists, funded by North West Cancer Research are seeking to better understand treatment resistance in pancreatic cancer.

The team, who is headed by Dr Ainhoa Mielgo and Dr Michael Schmid at the University of Liverpool, are aiming to identify currently unknown ‘negative immune checkpoint regulators’ existing in pancreatic cancer cells.

Negative immune checkpoint regulators are molecules that prevent Cytotoxic T Cells (T Cells) from working effectively - an important component of the immune system, which seeks to destroy damaged cells.

Previously, immunotherapies that target the two most studied negative immune checkpoint regulators (PD-1 and CTLA-4) have revolutionized cancer treatment. Blocking these negative immune checkpoint regulators reactivates the useful T Cells to allow them to kill tumour cells.

There has been great success with this method in several cancer types, but unfortunately these methods do not work on pancreatic cancer. This suggests that additional negative immune checkpoint regulators are still blocking T Cell function in pancreatic cancers.

The goal of Dr Mielgo and Dr Schmid’s project is to identify the negative immune checkpoint regulators that are active in pancreatic cancer and ultimately develop treatments to target these, reinvigorating the patient’s immune system to fight pancreatic cancer.

Lead researcher, Dr Mielgo said: “Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive and lethal diseases of the pancreas, with a 5-year survival rate of 7%. Pancreatic cancer represents a significant public health problem in the North West of England which has one of the highest incidence and death rates in the UK.

“Therapeutic advancement for this disease has been negligible, which is mainly due to the gap in our understanding of the complex biology of this disease. There is a clear local need to build and sustain a strong research programme and team of local scientists and clinicians to address this gap and apply our research findings into the clinics. Our aim is to advance our knowledge in this complex disease in order to find better treatments for pancreatic cancer.”

North West Cancer Research is the region’s leading cancer charity, funding life-saving research and education to tackle the cause, improve the care and find the cure for cancer.

The charity is dedicated to putting the region’s cancer needs first through focussing on the types of cancer that affect people living across North West England and North Wales the most.