Interview: Professor Anthony Maraveyas
Our study is aimed at developing an early diagnosis system for pancreatic cancer
Gunjan Sharma|
Wednesday, May 10, 2023


Professor Anthony Maraveyas, Honorary Consultant in Oncology at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Professor in Cancer Medicine at Hull York Medical School, University of Hull, talks to Gunjan Sharma about his latest research on pancreatic cancer. The rare cancer study will help doctors customise the treatment according to the patient’s need, improving the survival rate of one of the most morbid cancers.  


1.     What causes pancreatic cancer?

The majority of cases of pancreatic cancer are lifestyle-related, a result of smoking, drinking, and obesity. Besides, ageing is also a factor. A small percentage of cases also suggests that it could also be  caused due to gene mutations (like BRCA gene mutations).


2.     What makes its diagnosis so challenging?

The pancreas is positioned deep inside the abdomen. It produces enzymes that aid in digestion and the hormones such as insulin and glucagon, which help control blood sugar. There are no screening tests available for the diagnosis yet. Due to the location of the organ, a diagnosis of cancer becomes extremely difficult


3.     What is your recent study about? How will it help people suffering from pancreatic cancer?

The study is about improving the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer that arises in cystic lesions so that people get the right treatment early. The team at Hull uses conventional radiology techniques, including endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), to look at cysts and take small samples of fluid to test for biochemical changes known as tumour ‘markers’, which could help detect cancer early.

The study also incorporates the use of platform technologies, a form of cell research, to accurately diagnose the type of cyst patient has. When a surgeon knows what kind of tumour he/she is dealing with, it helps plan the surgery better. This is important because there is high post-surgery morbidity. In fact, surgery in case of pancreatic cancer is generally avoided unless absolute necessary.

An early and accurate diagnosis and surgery help avoid long radiology follow-up. If the cancer is removed at an early stage, it increases the chances of cure.


4.In India, pancreatic cancer has a high mortality rate. Do you think faster diagnosis can help reduce the mortality rate or improve the quality of life of the patients?

Yes. Trying to diagnose this disease at an early stage is the main thrust of much of the research happening now, including our study. The fundamental aim of this research is to reduce the suffering of patients and improve their health by determining the exact nature of a lesion or cyst and whether it is cancerous or not. As a result, this will aid in the early diagnosis of cancer and will also enable treatment to be tailored specifically to each patient, potentially reducing the number of patients undergoing avoidable surgery and increasing their chances of survival and quality of life.


5.     By when do you feel you will have the results of your study?

We should have results by spring next year. If they are promising, then a multicentre study would be recommended to prove the worth of whatever test we find to be accurate in a UK-wide setting.

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