Ulster University in Derry has announced a breakthrough treatment for pancreatic cancer that could significantly increase patient survival rate.

BBC.com reports that the pioneering treatment involves injecting tumors with oxygen micro bubbles that are coated with a drug which is then activated by ultrasound.

Pancreatic surgeon Mark Taylor said the work by researchers was "a very exciting development.”

"If this local treatment can actually allow us to operate, then we have a five-fold increase in survival.” 

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult to detect because the disease tends to have few symptoms, and it has the lowest five-year survival rate of any common cancer. 

"The potential is that we can reduce the size of these tumors by this type of targeted local therapy which would then allow resectional surgery to take place to remove the tumor," said Taylor.

"Eighty percent of people have unresectable tumors and if you are able to give a targeted treatment without the side effects of that treatment in the rest of the body, then that helps prolong survival and that is an excellent chance."

The university said it was a "major breakthrough that can open up more treatment options, even for advanced forms of the disease.”

Prof John Callan, who led the research at the university's biomedical laboratories in Coleraine, said this was "a highly novel and targeted technique" and "one of the most promising advances in pancreatic cancer research for decades.”

"We can selectively target the tumor and spare healthy tissue making this a highly targeted therapy with reduced side-effects," he said.

"This really is a groundbreaking development and one of the most promising advances in pancreatic cancer research for decades."

"We are hopeful that within the next one to two years we can start to begin clinical trials with this technology."