Dr Carol Trim, School of Human and Life Sciences, comments on recent news that discusses an obesity link to cancer.

Cancer Research UK has reported that people are unaware that being overweight increases the risk of developing 10 different types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is very difficult to diagnose as there is a lack of specific symptoms and tumours progress rapidly. In contrast to many other cancers the prognosis for people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer remains very poor. In fact, it has the lowest survival rate of all cancer and only 3% of people diagnosed survive for five years. If the public were more aware that obesity was a risk factor for cancer maybe better support could be given to these people to lose weight before these conditions develop.

One of the ways that obesity could be linked to cancer is that too much fat can cause insulin levels to rise. This activates signalling pathways that cause your body cells to divide more rapidly. At the University’s Discovery Park Life Sciences Industry Liaison Laboratory, based in Sandwich, one of my students Emily Knight is undertaking her PhD in collaboration with Venomtech Ltd to investigate the effect of animal venom in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. These venoms can target signalling pathways and stop cancer cells from dividing rapidly. Therefore, this could lead to potential ways of treating this disease, and understanding risk factors such as obesity can help in prevention. Prevention and cure together will be needed to defeat this devastating disease.

Find out more about the University’s Life Sciences Industry Liaison Lab.