Home > Diseases we research > Pancreatic cancer


Pancreatic cancer occurs when cells in the pancreas develop mutations in their DNA that can cause cells to grow into tumours. The pancreas lies behind the lower part of the stomach and secretes enzymes to help digestion and hormones to help with the metabolism of sugars.
About pancreatic cancer

What is pancreatic cancer?

‘Pancreatic adenocarcinoma’ originates in the part of the pancreas that makes digestive enzymes and accounts for about 85% of cases, but this part of the pancreas can also produce other rarer types of cancers. About 2% of pancreatic cancers are known as ‘neuroendocrine tumours’ that affect the hormone-producing cells of the pancreas and are generally less aggressive.

Key statistics

  • Low detection
    Pancreatic cancer is seldom detected in its early stages and typically spreads rapidly, making it the 4th leading cause of cancer death in Western societies
  • 3,271
    Estimated number of new pancreatic cancer cases diagnosed in 2017
  • Aged 60+
    Eighty percent of pancreatic cancer cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 60 years
  • 80%
    More than 80% of pancreatic cancers have spread from the pancreas to other body organs when they are first diagnosed
  • 6 months
    The average survival of patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer, even with treatment, is only six months

Pancreatic cancer research at Garvan

Garvan’s pancreatic cancer research is diverse, focusing on translating basic scientific discoveries into the clinic. In the Cancer Division, Dr Paul Timpson and Dr Marina Pajic are working to define the genetic characteristics of pancreatic cancer, developing biomarkers prognosis and therapeutic responsiveness, and understanding the molecular mechanisms of resistance in order to develop new treatment strategies.

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