Pancreatic cancer 'network of excellence' meets for first time at UNSW

The Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, Australia’s peak body for the disease, has awarded a second grant to UNSW's Professor Minoti Apte.

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Professor Minoti Apte. Photo: Cancer Institute NSW

UNSW Sydney Professor Minoti Apte OAM has been awarded her second grant from the Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, this time for her work on a novel drug combination for pancreatic cancer that will target not only cancer cells but also specific cells in the tissue surrounding cancer cells which help cancer growth.

The grant was announced as researchers gathered in Sydney to attend the Avner Foundation’s first National Pancreatic Cancer Symposium at the Lowy Cancer Research Centre at UNSW, on World Pancreatic Cancer Day.

The Symposium was established to create a “network of excellence” that will accelerate the organisation’s vision of doubling the number of people who survive pancreatic cancer by 2020.

In total, the Avner Foundation awarded six grants totaling $2 million for work that aims to break through more than 40 years of no progress in solving the very poor survival rates of pancreatic cancer.

The five-year survival rate is 8% compared with prostate and breast cancer, which have a five-year survival rate of more than 90%, foundation chairman Alan McArthur said.

“These grants to globally leading researchers provide pancreatic cancer patients, their families and the community with hope that we are unlocking the answers to this hideous problem,” he said.

The Symposium convenor, UNSW Associate Professor Phoebe Phillips, said funding from the Foundation had increased the number of researchers doing pancreatic cancer research in Australia.

“The next 10 years is looking really bright for pancreatic cancer research, compared to the last 10,” she said.

The Avner Foundation is exclusively dedicated to Pancreatic Cancer and is named in honour of Avner Nahmani, a former senior executive of Woolworths Limited, who succumbed to the disease 13 months after diagnosis.

The Director and Founder of Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, Caroline Kelly, said: “For the first time since we started awarding the Innovation and Accelerator Grants, past and present recipients representing different institutions and universities across Australia will share updates on their progress. The Symposium will offer an unparalleled opportunity for pancreatic cancer researchers to discuss and collaborate for the betterment of the disease.”