Doctors in Northern Ireland believe they have made a significant breakthrough with regard to the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Researchers at Ulster University have been developing a new treatment that has been proven to successfully shrink tumours dramatically.
Speaking to BBC Northern Ireland's Good Morning Ulster programme, pancreatic surgeon Mark Taylor called the work "an exciting development".
At present, around 80 per cent of patients with pancreatic cancer have tumours that are too large to be removed or treated effectively, but doctors now believe they can shrink these lumps five-fold, enabling them to be targeted much more efficiently.
The study saw scientists inject pancreatic tumours with micro oxygen bubbles that had been coated with a specialist drug that can be activated via ultrasound scan.
It was found that the bubbles successfully reduced the size of the tumours significantly, meaning they could then be surgically removed or targeted with chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
What's more, by focusing the bubble injections on one core area, the rest of the body can remain unharmed, preventing further health complaints.
Lead author of the research Professor John Callan explained: "We can selectively target the tumour and spare healthy tissue, making this a highly targeted therapy with reduced side effects.
"This really is a groundbreaking development and one of the most promising advances in pancreatic cancer research for decades."
Currently, around 9,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK each year. The disease has the lowest five-year survival rate of all common types of cancer and prognosis rates have not improved in the past four decades.
It is also notoriously hard to diagnose, as many of its symptoms - heartburn, weight loss and indigestion - are not necessarily signs of a serious underlying illness.
Yet thanks to this new discovery at Ulster University, diagnosis and long-term outcomes for the disease could be set to improve significantly in the future.
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