Doctoral student’s award-winning publication paves way for early detection of pancreatic cancer

Dr Jaelim Cho's original research clarified the link between diabetes mellitus and pancreatic cancer.

Dr Jaelim Cho and Professor Max Petrov

The Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences Doctoral Publication Excellence Prize is a prestigious annual award given to PhD or MD students who have published original research in a reputable peer-reviewed journal during their enrolment.

This year’s recipient is Dr Jaelim Cho from the faculty’s School of Medicine. Jaelim’s publication, ‘Post-pancreatitis diabetes confers higher risk for pancreatic cancer than type 2 diabetes: Results from a nationwide cancer registry’, focussed on the link between diabetes mellitus and pancreatic cancer.

The study involved analysing nationwide data on more than 130,000 New Zealanders with diabetes and determined for the first time, that diabetes occurring because of pancreatitis greatly increases the risk of pancreatic cancer - one of the most lethal cancers in Aotearoa. The study outlined a novel approach to screening for pancreatic cancer and potentially detect it earlier. The research was supervised by Professor Max Petrov (School of Medicine) and co-supervised by Professor Robert Scragg (School of Population Health).

This publication was part of Jaelim’s PhD study with the COSMOS group (‘Clinical and epidemiological investigations in metabolism, nutrition, and pancreatic diseases’) – a well-published group led by Professor Petrov centring on research in diseases of the pancreas.

Prior to receiving this prize, Jaelim’s publication won the 2020 Top Publication by a Doctoral Student award in the School of Medicine, and was published in Diabetes Care – an official journal of the American Diabetes Association.

The publication was an integral part of Jaelim’s PhD thesis, which was completed earlier this year and was recognised in the Dean of Graduate Studies List. Jaelim’s PhD thesis focussed on epidemiology of post-pancreatitis diabetes mellitus. Jaelim will now take up the position of Assistant Professor at Yonsei University in her native South Korea while continuing to be actively involved in several projects of the COSMOS group.