Australian Pancreatic Cancer Familial Screening Program
Lead institution: St Vincent’s Hospital (Sydney)
Chief Investigator: Dr Alina Stoita
Cancer type: Pancreatic
Study established: 2011 to current
Active institutions: St Vincent’s Hospital (Sydney); Austin Hospital (Melbourne); Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital; Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (Perth)
Sites in development: St Vincent’s Hospital (Melbourne)
About the research program
The Familial Screening Program was established in 2010 by Dr Alina Stoita at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney to understand the genetic links of pancreatic cancer in Australian families.
The program has three key research objectives:
- To devise methods of detecting cancers at earlier stages
- To identify patients with a strong family history
- To develop genetic markers to predict cancer development.
To achieve these aims, the study involves screening for pancreatic cancer in those Australians who may be at high risk of developing the disease, e.g. family history of pancreatic cancer. Once a participant is screened and determined to be at high risk of developing pancreatic cancer, they are enrolled in the annual screening program, which involves a specialist gastroenterologist who is part of the study providing an endoscopic ultrasound as well as blood and urine collection. The specialist teams review the results on an ongoing basis with the aim of detecting the development of pancreatic tumours or pre-cancerous lesions earlier than is possible with standard of care in these individuals who are at high risk. Critically, this type of screening may help determine when prophylactic surgery might prevent the progression of cancer.
What this program has shown is that we need to develop novel biomarkers to detect pancreatic cancer in the broader community at an earlier stage. In addition, the stored blood samples are being used to identify potential novel biomarkers in high-risk individuals. Some of the samples collected from patients in the screening program may help in biomarker development.
Since its establishment in 2011, the program has grown significantly, from a single site in Sydney, to a national network of clinical sites, including hospitals in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth with more expected to join the program. With numerous sites recruiting participants, the accrual has been increasing steadily and significantly. At St Vincent’s alone, over 1,059 people from all areas of Australia have been contacted or referred to the program for screening. Of these, 286 individuals met the age criteria and either had a family history consistent with familial pancreatic cancer or were known to have a high-risk pancreatic cancer predisposition gene, making them eligible for ongoing participation and annual screening.
The program has also produced a number of research outputs, including peer-reviewed publications in high-impact journals and presentations nationally and internationally. A key finding has been that individuals with a family history of pancreatic cancer are motivated and engaged and want to be screened for pancreatic cancer.
Learn more about this trial:
> Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative
Research progress and outcomes: link to new pdf asset. [currently in draft format pending approval]
Research progress and outcomes:
> Australian Pancreatic Cancer Familial Screening Program