Forget the bankers, cancer and AIDs need the cash

An expert from the Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Group – which comprises the UK’s major pancreatic cancer charities – is calling for a more realistic approach to pancreatic cancer research funding.

It appears that the current level of investment has led to no improvement in survival rates over the last 40 years.

Consultant Surgeon Hemant Kocher, based at Barts and The London, says that both clinicians and researchers are frustrated by the lack of investment into service provision and research for this deadly cancer – referred to as the ‘silent killer’, the tenth most common type and the fifth most common cause of cancer death:

“It is shocking to think that average life expectancy once pancreatic cancer is diagnosed is just six months. In the next year seven thousand people in the UK will die from this cancer and yet only one per cent of all cancer funding goes towards pancreatic cancer research.”

According to Mr Kocher, where research is able to be carried out there are some encouraging signs for the future. Researchers are discovering that as far as surgery for pancreatic cancer goes, less is more. Says Mr Kocher:

“Allowing patients to undergo surgery and get additional chemotherapy immediately afterwards helps to prolong survival. Information collected from recent studies suggests that doing the standard surgical excision for pancreatic cancer is perhaps as good as the extensive operations, with fewer complications after surgery.

“We can only learn so much with the limited resources we have, however. If we want to make a swift and significant impact then more investment is vital. It is crucial that we capitalise on the progress made to date, otherwise we run the risk of another 40 years with very little change.”

An aggressive spending programme is also the only way to end global HIV/AIDS. This is in contrast to previous research which advises that gradual spending over 15 to 20 years is needed to eradicate the epidemic.

Canadian researchers found that an aggressive programme over five years is the only way to end the epidemic, given our current resources.

Their study – part of a supplement on The OptAIDS project: towards global halting of HIV/AIDS – was based on a mathematical model developed by mathematicians and biologists.

Professor Robert J. Smith and his team from the University of Ottawa – working with researchers from York University and the University of Manitoba – developed the mathematical model to examine how best to eliminate HIV/AIDS worldwide, given the large amounts of money that have been committed to fighting the disease.

They found that the $60 billion currently committed to fighting HIV/AIDS might suffice to end the epidemic globally. However, spending this money over the proposed 15 to 20 years will almost certainly fail, given the ability of HIV/AIDS to spread through travel and migration.

Recent scientific advances combined with education campaigns and condoms have been very effective in reducing the incidence of the disease in many countries and regions. However, the incidence of infection is still on the rise in many countries.

Travel and immigration will also make it impossible to contain the disease to these regions. As a result, the researchers predict that the spread of the disease will continue to outpace treatment. Says Professor Smith:

“The OptAIDS project grew out of a frustration with existing attempts to tackle the disease. HIV/AIDS is mostly addressed at a community or national level, when it needs to be tackled globally.”

The team is now working to develop a model for how best to spend existing resources in the developing world to contain the disease before it spreads beyond our reach.

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