Reflections on the annual WPCC Meeting

We have just arrived home following a very inspirational World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition meeting, and what a whirlwind 48 hours. Seeing everyone after a year has been incredible, especially considering all that has happened over the past 365 days.

So what can we say about the 2018 World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition meeting? Yes, we know it sounds so cliché, but these are the kinds of meetings you come away motivated, passionate and with such a drive that you’ll do anything in your power to make sure things happen.

Over the course of the two days, we heard from scientific experts and fellow members. We spoke about what we’ve all done right over the past couple of years and what we can do better. We discussed what the Coalition has achieved as individual members and as a collective. And we planned for the 12 months ahead. And we can assure you, it’s going to be a big year!

Importantly, we learnt that while pancreatic cancer is disproportionately underrepresented in both clinical trials and research compared to other cancers, the work of WPCC members is really starting to make a difference. Research is starting to make an impact. There are more options for patients, and patients are living longer with a better quality of life. Breakthroughs are happening. While they may seem small, they are happening.

Research is starting to translate to patients.

From the scientific panel, we learnt a few things:

  • It’s about treating people in a better and smarter way.
  • It’s going to be amazing to see the work coming out of the research over the next five years.
  • Standard options for treatment are yet to produce consistent long-term outcomes. We need to think in a novel and different way.
  • The immune system doesn’t see the cancer so we can’t harness the immune system to fight it and we can’t expect it to fight it. This is where immunotherapy comes in. Our immune system really doesn’t care about pancreatic cancer so it doesn’t matter what drugs we throw at it because the immune system can’t recognise the cancer enough to cure it. The new immunotherapy treatments help the immune system recognise the cancer and fight back.
  • Precision medicine and targeted medicine is all about finding the right treatment for the patient at the right time. It’s about sequencing the DNA of the person – the inherited genes – and the DNA of the tumour – the mutations – to find the best course of treatment for the individual.
  • Breakthroughs are happening, especially if we cater therapy to the individual patient.

What we learnt most though? We have to have hope in this disease. There are survivors out there. There is research being done. Momentum is building to encourage governments to fund pancreatic cancer research and trials.

There is a global movement out here. And we’re constantly striving to beat pancreatic cancer.

We can’t do it alone. With collaboration, though, the sky is the limit.

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