Crowdfunding to Help Catch Pancreatic Cancer Earlier and Create Better Treatment Options

Tohoku University and Readyfor have launched a new crowdfunding campaign raising money for pancreatic cancer genetic analysis to help catch this deadly disease early and optimize treatment options.

Pancreatic cancer is a difficult disease to treat, and the chances of survival are low when compared to other cancers.

Roughly 40,000 people per year are expected to lose their life to pancreatic cancer in Japan by 2030.

With over 30 years of experience researching pancreatic cancer, Professor Toru Furukawa from the Department of Pathology at Tohoku University School of Medicine is leading the call for funds.

"I've treated many patients with pancreatic cancer, many of whom saw it return after surgery and tragically passed away. This has led me to think about ways to reverse this trend," said Furukawa.

Improving early detection is crucial to reducing that number. The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is relatively good when detected at stage one. However, only 7% of patients are diagnosed at this stage.

That is because detection is not easy. The pancreas lies behind the lower part of your stomach and is located close to major blood vessels.

Whilst gastric and colon cancers can be diagnosed from simple endoscopic procedures, pancreatic cancer requires advanced medical imaging tests such as CT scans and MRIs. Furthermore, patients often show symptoms only after the cancer has spread.

The project will make use of pancreatic cancer tissues donated by patients.

"Our research will analyze genetic mutations in the tissue of early-stage pancreatic cancer patients to identify specific diagnostic biomarkers," said Furukawa. "Doing so will enable the diagnosis of early-stage pancreatic cancer through blood tests."

The second part of their research will use genetic analysis to tailor treatment for patients.

Treating pancreatic cancer includes chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and/or surgery. Even with surgery, however, reoccurrence is frequent.

Previous research has revealed that undergoing chemotherapy before surgery improves survival rates.

"Pancreatic cancer is tricky because it tends to invade blood vessels, lymph vessels, and nerves. We think that pancreatic cancer is prone to recurrence after surgery because the cancer will have already spread. Chemotherapy before surgery is effective because it removes microscopic cancer to some extent," said Furukawa.

Researchers at Tohoku University have pathologically observed that some patients respond well to chemotherapy whilst others do not. Why this is the case remains unclear.

This project hopes to analyze genetic mutations of patients who respond well to chemotherapy and those who do not to identify genetic abnormalities related to the efficacy of the treatment.

"Knowing in advance if chemotherapy works or not will allow us to select the most practical form of treatment. Treatment will be more efficient and less burdensome," added Furukawa.

Through generous support, Furukawa hopes that his dream of reducing the number dying from pancreatic cancer to zero will move one step closer.

Readyfor is a company specializing in crowdfunding. Starting its services in 2011 as Japan's first crowdfunding company, Readyfor facilitates socially orientated projects by connecting individuals and organizations to funds. Since the company's inception, it has helped raise 10 billion yen for over 10,000 projects.

Crowdfunding project overview:

1) Searching for early-stage pancreatic cancer biomarkers
2) Searching for biomarkers to optimize pancreatic cancer chemotherapy

Target Amount: 15 million yen

Format: All-in donation type

Campaign period: July 2 (10 a.m. JST) - September 30, 2021 (11 p.m. JST)


Donations to Tohoku University are eligible for Japanese tax incentives.
Donors will get a receipt and a thank you letter.

News in Japanese


For details about the project:
Toru Furukawa
Department of Pathology at Tohoku University School of Medicine

For details about the crowdfunding:
Tohoku University Fund

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