Pancreatic Cancer

From the lab to patients in just three years
This is the best thing I've ever done

– Professor Paul Timpson

researcher image

A/Prof Marina Pajic and Prof Paul Timpson

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal cancers, the five-year survival rate is only 9%, and very little progress has been made in the last 40 years. 

Three years ago, Professor Paul Timpson, Cancer Research Theme Leader, and Associate Professor Marina Pajic, Head of Personalised Cancer Therapeutics Lab at Garvan, set out to change this. The researchers found that the stroma – the tough tissue around the tumour – inhibits treatments reaching the pancreatic cancer tumour. By weakening the stroma before targeting the tumour itself the researchers revealed an almost double efficacy rate for treatment.


Now, we’re going to test this research in a national clinical trials program. The results could be life-changing. And this is just the beginning.

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While researching how we could weaken the defensive stroma barrier and access the tumour more easily, the researcher made another critical discovery.


Using genomics and advanced microscopy they discovered that pancreatic cancer is not just one disease - but can be divided into at least 10 subtypes. This knowledge has opened up the potential for more personalised treatments to find the right drug to treat a patient’s individual sub-type. In the clinical trial phase, the researchers are combining treatment of the stroma with personalised cancer treatment, based on the pancreatic cancer subtype.

Untreated blood vessel
Treated blood vessel
Untreated blood vessel Treated blood vessel
This shows blood vessels opening up after stromal treatment to improve drug delivery.

Translating research into direct benefits for patients

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This clinical trial will bring us closer to improving and personalising treatments for pancreatic cancer.

Taking our work from lab to patients, discovering what’s working and what isn’t, taking that back to the lab to further refine the treatment, and bringing these findings back to the patients – this is why we do what we do. 


This trial is a key example of Garvan’s focus on iterative learning, bench-to-bedside-to-bench strategies, that we hope will have significant outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients right now, and deliver more insights into why treatments work for some patients and not others, which will be taken back to the lab to generate even more trials that will aid in our ultimate goal of improving survival rates and extending lives.

View the below video to hear about our upcoming trial directly from A/Prof Marina Pajic.

Or watch A/Prof Marina Pajic’s full seminar detailing her research into pancreatic cancer.

By donating today, you will not only be supporting this life-changing research but you could also help reduce your taxable income.

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