Dr Sarah Hancock

Unlocking the secrets of pancreatic cancer metabolism

Sarah’s research grant is a Cure Cancer grant funded by The Can Too Foundation.

Sarah is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales School of Medical Sciences. She gained her PhD at the University of Wollongong in 2016.

The Research

Pancreatic cancer has a notoriously low survival rate, which hasn’t improved in the past 20 years. In her Cure Cancer-funded research, Sarah aims to detect one or more metabolic pathways (biochemical reactions) linked to the disease that can be targeted with new drugs. This could make chemo more effective, improving survival rates.

Sarah will also test if the method she is using is applicable to single cancer cells, which means that researchers may one day be able to use it as a diagnostic tool for predicting how patients respond to treatment.

The Importance of Funding

Sarah considers her Cure Cancer grant to be one of her greatest research achievements thus far. ‘The problems young investigators face in getting support when they’re starting out and building their track records have worsened in recent years,’ she says. ‘Many ultimately quit their careers because of how hard it is to obtain funding. That’s why targeted schemes, such as the one I’ve been awarded by Cure Cancer, are so crucial in retaining young scientists and allowing us to pursue promising lines of research.’

For people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the news is devastating, she says. ‘My advice is to try to live life as fully as possible, and not to lose hope. I, and many talented researchers in the field, are working very hard to find new treatment options for this awful disease, and we hope its dismal prognosis will one day be a thing of the past.”

One of the biggest hurdles she has experienced in her working life is dealing with experiments that fail, which happens often and usually for no easily identifiable reason, she says. ‘This is where patience and persistence pay off, and it gives you the ability to work through the problem to try again tomorrow.’