Pancreatic Cancer Screening Trial

The first Australian pancreatic cancer screening trial is recruiting at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney and Austin Health, Melbourne. The aim of the study is to assess endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) as a screening method in a population considered to be at increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Why screen for pancreatic cancer?

Early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer can significantly improve the outcome. However, due to the relatively low incidence of pancreas cancer, population-based screening is not considered feasible. A number of international screening programs are working together to define a population who may benefit from regular surveillance and to establish evidence-based screening protocols for families at an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer screening in Australia

The pancreatic cancer screening trial commenced at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, in 2011 and over 100 participants are receiving regular research-based surveillance. The trial has since expanded to Austin Health in Melbourne. The specialist gastroenterologists use endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), a combination of endoscopy and ultrasound, to closely assess the pancreas. The aim of the trial is to determine how effectively EUS  detects premalignant lesions and early pancreatic cancers in high risk individuals.

Who is eligible for screening?

Family history of pancreatic cancer and genetic results are the main predictors used to assess individuals eligible for the screening trial.

You may be eligible to join the St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, screening study if you are 50-80yrs of age (or 10 years younger than the youngest relative diagnosed with pancreatic cancer) and fit into one of the following inclusion criteria:

  • People with two first-degree relatives affected by pancreatic cancer on the same side (e.g. a parent and a sibling, 2 siblings)
  • People with three or more relatives affected by pancreatic cancer on the same side, and a first-degree relationship with at least one affected relative
  • People who are known carriers of a faulty copy of the BRCA2 or PALB2 gene and have a first-degree relative with pancreatic cancer
  • People with Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) syndrome and have a first-degree relative with pancreatic cancer
  • People with Familial atypical multiple mole melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome and have a first-degree relative with pancreatic cancer
  • People with Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome
  • People with Hereditary Pancreatitis

How do I become involved?

The best way to find out if you are eligible for the study is to gather information about your family history and contact the screening trial coordinator, Tanya Dwarte, using the email: t.dwarte@garvan.org.au. Information that will be required includes:

  • Which of your relatives have had pancreatic cancer, including their name(s), date of birth, age at diagnosis and/or age at death, where they were diagnosed or treated.
  • Which of your relatives have had other types of cancer (e.g. breast, bowel etc.), including their name(s), age at diagnosis and/or age at death, where they were diagnosed or treated.
  • Details of any genetic testing in the family that has found a faulty copy of one of the cancer predisposition genes or syndromes listed above.

Additional information may be required to confirm the details of pancreatic cancer in relatives (e.g. medical records, death certificates). The screening trial coordinator can provide further information that can help you to obtain this information.

The screening trial coordinator for St Vincent’s Hospital is Tanya Dwarte, who can be contacted using the email: t.dwarte@garvan.org.au.

Victorian individuals wanting to find out more about the Austin Health eligibility and the enrollment process can email the screening trial coordinator on info@pancare.org.au.

What does the study involve?

The main components of the study include:

  • Signed consent and completion of a questionnaire on personal health and family history
  • Attending a genetic counselling session at a local Family Cancer Clinic
  • Endoscopic ultrasounds, at intervals recommended by the study gastroenterologist
  • Brief follow up questionnaires at one month, one year and five year intervals following your first EUS

You will be guided through the process by the site clinical coordinator, who will assist with any questions or concerns along the way.