As many as four in 10 cases of pancreatic cancer could be prevented by not smoking and maintaining a healthy body weight, Cancer Research UK stressed this week in a call to arms against the disease.

Survival rates for pancreatic cancer remain "shockingly low", with just 3% of the 8,800 people in the UK diagnosed every year alive after five years.

The charity said it plans to double its annual spend on research into the disease to £12 million over the next five years, with a particular focus on the biology behind its spread and boosting the effectiveness of standard chemotherapy treatments, to help paint a better picture for patients.

"There’s an urgent need to tackle pancreatic cancer head on by building up an armoury of effective new treatments - and developing ways to diagnose this disease sooner, when surgery is more effective," said Professor Jeff Evans, a clinician and researcher at Cancer Research UK’s Beatson Institute in Glasgow.

“At the same time it’s important to remember that people can take steps to reduce their risk of developing pancreatic and other cancers, by not smoking and by keeping a healthy weight," he noted.

Lung cancer centre of excellence

Meanwhile, the charity has unveiled a groundbreaking new Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence at Manchester and UCL, a "key component" of its renewed focus to beat lung cancer. 

The disease is the second most common cancer in the UK and the biggest cancer killer, and yet progress in the development of new treatments has been slow, "with little improvement seen over time due to its complex biology, resulting in poor survival rates", the charity said.

The idea behind its Centre of Excellence is to unite the strengths of the individual research hubs - immuno-oncology in London and radiotherapy and drug/biomarker discovery in Manchester (broadly speaking) - into one new research entity with a single strategy for advancing progress in the field.

"This new Centre of Excellence will speed up the pace of research, unlocking lung cancer’s secrets and offering hope to the many thousands of people diagnosed with the disease every year,” said Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive.