Posted on 29th June 2023 by Charlotte Ridler

Coming together to tackle pancreatic cancer – The London Pancreas Workshop

Barts Cancer Institute and Barts Health NHS Trust recently hosted the ninth edition of The London Pancreas Workshop, a forum to explore state-of-the-art research in pancreatic cancer. Experts in the field from across the UK and around the world converged on our campus in Charterhouse Square to discuss the latest advances in discovery science and clinical research.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the hardest types of cancer to treat – only 5% of people survive their disease for 10 years or more, and survival has barely increased for decades. We urgently need to find better ways to detect the disease early and treat it effectively to build a better future for people with this condition.

The London Pancreas Workshop provides a space for clinicians, researchers, industry partners and charity representatives to come together and discuss challenges and progress in pancreatic cancer, helping to catalyse further advances. It was a pleasure to host this year’s edition in person for the first time since 2018, with the 2020 edition being held online during the pandemic, enabling attendees to discuss and debate together in the same space once again.

The day featured an exciting programme of talks from leaders in the field, focussing on diagnosis, clinical trials and targeted approaches to tackling the disease. Poster sessions also ran alongside coffee and lunch breaks, with many early-career researchers presenting their work, sparking additional discussions in between the main talks. Towards the end of the day, poster presenters participated in flash talks – rising to the challenge of explaining their project to the auditorium in one minute or less. Our judging panel awarded poster prizes to their top five posters.

Professor Claude Chelala and Professor Hemant Kocher, organisers of the London Pancreas Workshop 2023
Professor Claude Chelala and Professor Hemant Kocher, organisers of the London Pancreas Workshop 2023

Professor Hemant Kocher and Professor Claude Chelala from Barts Cancer Institute were the main organisers of the event. Professor Kocher commented:

“We were delighted to see many young researchers participating with posters and flash talks. This bodes well for accelerating pancreatic cancer research.

National and international opinion leaders showed progress in early diagnosis, treatment options and laboratory research for pancreatic cancer. We are grateful for support from charities and pharmaceutical and medical technology companies to support the London Pancreas Workshop.”


Highlights from the presentation sessions

The day centred around four key presentation sessions, each followed by a lively Q&A with the audience. Our first session focussed on diagnostic studies of pancreatic cancer. Among the speakers was Professor Fiona Walter, Director of the Wolfson Institute of Population Health at Queen Mary University of London. She outlined the challenges of detecting pancreatic cancer in primary care and how new approaches could enable us to identify symptoms earlier, giving us a better chance of successfully treating the disease. She also discussed the new CanDetect programme, funded by Cancer Research UK, which seeks to accelerate the detection of upper gastrointestinal cancers – including not only pancreatic cancer, but also oesophageal and bowel cancers.

The second session focussed on clinical trials. Professor Paula Ghaneh from Liverpool University discussed the ESPAC-5 trial and emphasised that we should take heart that some patients with pancreatic cancer do respond to therapy – “I hope today I can leave us on a positive note,” she commented. Barts Cancer Institute’s Dr David Propper also presented positive results from treating patients with the drug Minnelide, in his work forming part of the Stand Up to Cancer funded “Pancreatic cancer dream team”.

In the third session, speakers focussed on research into targeted approaches to tackling pancreatic cancer. One key theme was how immune cells impact the development, spread and treatment of pancreatic cancer. Dr Dana Adel Mustafa of the Erasmus University Medical Centre, the Netherlands discussed the effects of therapy on the immune cells in the dense microenvironment surrounding pancreatic cancer. In addition, Dr Seth Coffelt from the Beatson Institute in Glasgow explored how a specialist type of immune cell, called gamma-delta T cells, can promote or oppose tumour growth.

Congratulations to our poster prize winners

We congratulate our poster prize winners, PhD students Charlotte Simpson, Danya Cheeseman, Joaquin Araos and Priscilla Cheng and post-doctoral researcher Ed Carter, for bringing in their project updates to the London Pancreas Workshop.

All of our poster flash talk presenters
All of our poster flash talk presenters

After the poster flash talks, the day concluded with the prestigious Paget lecture, held in memory of Dr Stephen Paget. Dr Paget was a surgeon trained at Barts Hospital who introduced the concept of the “seed and soil” theory, which proposed that for cancer to spread, there must be interaction and co-operation between cancer cells (the seeds) and the tissue it is spreading to (the soil). This year’s Paget lecture was given by Professor David Cheresh, Distinguished Professor and Vice Chair of Pathology at the University of California, San Diego, USA. Professor Cheresh joined us remotely from the USA to share his insights into the molecular interactions between pancreatic cells and their environment, focussing on how stress and chemotherapy can prompt cancer cells to build a protective niche for themselves that allows them to become tolerant to stress and resistant to drugs. This crucial knowledge could help us design better ways to overcome treatment resistance in pancreatic cancer.

Thank you to all of the sponsors, organisers, speakers and delegates who helped make the 2023 London Pancreas Workshop a great success. We look forward to seeing how the field progresses by the time of our next meeting, planned for 2025.

Category: Conferences, Events, General News

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