Public Release: 

Research grants awarded to projects targeting pancreatic cancer, one of nation's deadliest

American Association for Cancer Research

PHILADELPHIA -- The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network will award 10 grants through their joint 2015 Research Grants Program to outstanding scientists throughout the country, supporting their novel research in the field of pancreatic cancer.

Since 2003, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, in collaboration with the AACR, has awarded 109 research grants totaling more than $27 million awarded to bright and motivated scientists across the country.

Pancreatic cancer has historically been understudied and underfunded, yet it is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and has the lowest survival rate of major cancers, at just 7 percent.

The diverse research topics funded this year include immunotherapy, targeting KRAS, heredity in pancreatic cancer, and tumor metabolism.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network-AACR Grantees will be honored at the AACR Annual Meeting 2015, held April 18-22.

"Pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancer types for which death rates are steadily increasing; it is projected to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States by 2030," said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. "Research into this deadly disease is urgently needed, and the AACR is proud to continue its partnership with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network to support these grant opportunities which provide investigators with much-needed resources to support their innovative basic, translational, and clinical research into pancreatic cancer and the translation of these findings into improved outcomes for patients."

"The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's research investment represents a focused effort at providing financial support for projects with potential to enhance our ability to treat or diagnose this disease. Certain grants within our portfolio are also intended to attract and retain early-career investigators into the field," said Julie Fleshman, president and CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. "The most promising science has been selected for funding through a rigorous peer-review process and we are thrilled to grow our 'Community for Progress' to tackle one of the nation's deadliest cancers. By recruiting the brightest scientists with the most novel ideas, we continue to build a broad research community, poised to make significant scientific and clinical discoveries."

Meet the grant recipients and learn more about their funded projects.

The 2015 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network-AACR Research Acceleration Network Grants are three-year grants totaling $1 million each. These grants offer strategic funding and project management services to high-priority projects that have a clinical component and are already underway within the pancreatic cancer research community. This year's recipients are:

  • Jonathan R. Brody, PhD, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, and co-PIs Christopher Albanese, PhD, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Washington, D.C., Subha Madhavan, PhD, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Emanuel F. Petricoin, III, PhD, George Mason University, Manassas, Virginia, and Michael J. Pishvaian, MD, PhD, Georgetown University
    "Developing an algorithm for molecular tailored therapy"

  • Channing J. Der, PhD, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, and co-PIs Jason B. Fleming, MD, FACS, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston and Krister Wennerberg, PhD, University of Helsinki, Finland
    "Defining novel combination KRAS-targeted therapeutic strategies"

  • Steven D. Leach, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York and co-PI Douglas T. Fearon, MD, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, New York
    "Eliminating T cell barriers in pancreatic cancer patients"
    Supported by Celgene Corporation

The 2015 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network-AACR Career Development Awards are two-year grants of $200,000 that are designed to attract and support early-career scientists as they conduct pancreatic cancer research and establish successful career paths in the field. This year's recipients are:

  • Gregory L. Beatty, MD, PhD, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
    "Immune escape mechanisms in metastatic pancreatic cancer"
    Supported by an anonymous foundation

  • Cosimo Commisso, PhD, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, La Jolla
    "Targeting macropinocytosis via Na+/H+ exchanger inhibition in PDAC"
    Supported in honor of the legacy of Skip Viragh

  • Nada Y. Kalaany, PhD, Children's Hospital Boston
    "Role of arginine metabolism in obesity-associated pancreatic cancer"
    Supported by an anonymous foundation

The 2015 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network-AACR Pathway to Leadership Grant is a five-year grant totaling $600,000. This grant is designed to support the future leadership of pancreatic cancer research by funding an outstanding early-career investigator in a postdoctoral, mentored research position and continuing through a successful transition to independence. This year's recipient is:

  • Nicholas J. Roberts, VetMB, PhD, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
    "Integrative analyses of familial pancreatic cancer genomes"

The 2015 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Translational Research Grants are two-year grants of $300,000 that support independent investigators conducting translational research that has as its endpoint the development of a pancreatic cancer assessment, prevention or treatment modality. This year's recipients are:

  • David Boothman, PhD and co-PI Muhammad Beg, MD, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
    "Use of PARP1 inhibitors to leverage a tumor-selective 'kiss of death'"

  • Matthias Gromeier, MD and co-PI James Abbruzzese, MD, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
    "Oncolytic poliovirus immunotherapy of pancreatic cancer"

  • Kazuki N. Sugahara, MD, PhD, Columbia University, New York and co-PI Andrew M. Lowy, MD, FACS, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla
    "Clinical development of a tumor-penetrating peptide for enhanced pancreatic cancer therapy"

In addition to funding critical research and building professional development for grantees and collaboration among pancreatic cancer researchers, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is growing its patient services through a number of initiatives to support the organization's goal to double survival by 2020.

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Follow the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network: Twitter @PanCAN and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JointheFight

About the American Association for Cancer Research

Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 35,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in 101 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 25 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with over 18,500 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes eight prestigious, peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients, and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration, and scientific oversight of team science and individual investigator grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and other policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit http://www.AACR.org.

About the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is the national organization creating hope in a comprehensive way through research, patient support, community outreach and advocacy for a cure. The organization is leading the way to increase survival for people diagnosed with this devastating disease through a bold initiative -- The Vision of Progress: Double Pancreatic Cancer Survival by 2020. Together, we can Wage Hope in the fight against pancreatic cancer by intensifying our efforts to heighten awareness, raise funds for comprehensive private research, and advocate for dedicated federal research to advance early diagnostics and better treatments and increase chances of survival.

For any inquiries, please contact Lauren Riley at lauren.riley@aacr.org or 215-446-7155 or Anne Milo at amilo@pancan.org or 310-706-3357

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