Scientists at the University of Liverpool have been awarded £1.5 million by Cancer Research UK for work that aims to boost understanding about pancreatic cancer.

The study will analyse tissue and blood samples from pancreatic cancer patients being treated at Royal Liverpool Hospital and Aintree University Hospital to investigate how the disease spreads to other parts of the body.

The six-year research programme hopes to help develop new strategies and drugs to improve treatments for pancreatic cancer patients, and will look at why immunotherapy has thus far not shown much promise for pancreatic patients.

“Over the last few years it has become clear that normal cells surrounding the cancer cells – called stromal cells – are as important as the cancer cells themselves. The tumour seems to be hijacking these cells and uses them to rapidly grow. We need to find out how this happens and how we can prevent this,” said Dr Michael Schmid, who is leading the international study.

“What’s different about this study is that we will be looking at what these stromal cells are doing once the tumour has spread to another part of the body – in this case the liver. This could allow us to find new drugs to prevent metastasis of pancreatic cancer.”