Soap star supports pancreatic cancer research

Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh (Hayley Cropper) Photo: PA Images
Julie Hesmondhalgh filming a scene for Coronation Street Credit: PA Images

Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh today had a close-up look at the work being done by scientists to combat pancreatic cancer.

Her character in the ITV soap, Hayley Cropper, is suffering from a terminal condition of the illness and was given six months to live in September.

The actress is calling for more funding to support research after she met scientists at the University of Manchester who are working on a two-year study funded by the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund (PCRF).

She said: "It's been really exciting to be shown what's happening at the cutting edge of research into pancreatic cancer and fantastic to see that this research is taking place right here in Manchester. I've learnt so much.

"When I first found out about the storyline I knew very little about pancreatic cancer but since then I've met some wonderful people and have been trying to support more funding for research in this area.

"Pancreatic cancer has the worst survival rate of any common cancer - only three in every 100 people diagnosed will live beyond five years and we need to see more investment so that scientists, like the ones I've met today in Manchester, can continue to make steps forward to find ways to fight this disease."

She met Professor Caroline Dive, from The University of Manchester's Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology Group, who explained how her #150,000 research project is analysing stray tumour cells that circulate in the blood. She hopes it will pave the way to profiling the molecular characteristics of patients' pancreatic tumours from a single blood test.

The actress also met Professor Richard Marais - who heads the research carried out in the University's Paterson Building - on the visit with Maggie Blanks, chief executive of PCRF.

The Manchester team hope to set up clinical trials to both tailor treatments for individual patients, based on the analysis of their tumour type and monitor the success of their treatment regime.

Prof Marais said: "New research is urgently needed if we are to improve outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients. Our scientists here in Manchester are conducting laboratory research that will inform patient treatment.

"We are very grateful to the wonderful supporters of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund for their continued donations that allow us to perform this important research."

Mrs Blanks said: "The world-class research we fund at The University of Manchester is a great example of how we can drive progress to find new, more successful treatments that are personalised to the individual needs of the patient, rather than the 'one-size fits all' approach, which is the only option available to clinicians.

"Julie's help in raising awareness of this disease is wonderful and I hope this translates into more research money being made available for pancreatic cancer as it's the only way we can start to improve the shockingly low survival rates."