"Like many Australians, I have lost family members to cancer. It's their stories and struggles that encouraged me to get into cancer research," says Dr Angelica Merlot, 28, who studied medical science at the University of Sydney to become a pancreatic cancer researcher. Her work involves investigating how the human body works in normal and disease conditions. "By researching the difference between normal cells and cancer cells, we can develop drugs to treat the disease," she explains.
Because there are no symptoms in its early stages, pancreatic cancer has one of the worst survival rates of any cancer, with 92 per cent of patients dying five years after diagnosis, "It's known as a 'silent killer' because it is so aggressive. It's embarrassing for humanity and researchers because there has been limited progress," says Dr Merlot.
Pancreatic cancer doesn't have the recognition or celebrity support of other diseases like breast cancer, and, as such, doesn't receive as much attention or funding. Dr Merlot hopes to raise the profile of pancreatic cancer to attract more money for her research, which is currently funded by Cancer Cure Australia. "I'm hopeful we can find a cure."
Cancer Research Awareness Week kicks off on May 27.