Pancreatic cancers can arise in most cell types found in the pancreas. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the most common of them, is one of the most lethal of all cancer types. The Pancreatic Cancer disease-oriented team (PCDOT) does research to better understand how to prevent and treat these cancers. The PCDOT has four broad goals:
- Identify and avoid defective cellular functions that cause pancreatic cancers
- Develop and test effective treatments
- Describe inherited factors that raise risk for pancreatic and other cancers
- Develop animal models for pancreatic cancer
A Sample of Current Projects
- Identifying biomarkers for pre-malignant and early stage pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed too late for effective treatment. Earlier detection using a blood test would improve outcomes by identifying the disease when it is treatable. The PCDOT continues investigations into a set of biomarkers in the blood of patients that shows promise for screening those with a high risk. Other projects extend this research and identify biomarkers in pre-cancerous lesions. These projects take advantage of a robust biospecimen and outcomes resource developed by the PCDOT. A collaboration with the Nano Institute works to develop an inexpensive detection system using highly sensitive magnetic nanoparticles.
- Investigating the genetics of pancreatic cancer progression. Pancreatitis and cancer are common diseases of the pancreas. PCDOT researchers study proteins that control gene expression in the pancreas. Discoveries in this area could contribute to therapies to help regenerate a pancreas damaged by pancreatitis or stop the growth of pancreatic cancer cells without damaging other cells in the body.
- Developing new imaging techniques to help diagnosis and management. Techniques such as PET/CT and MRI are non-invasive ways to image the pancreas. The PCDOT has several active research projects that promise to enhance these techniques for pancreatic cancer diagnosis and management. One study looks at using multi-tracer PET/CT imaging to identify cases likely to respond to gemcitabine chemotherapy. Other projects seek to increase image resolution of pancreatic tumors in PET/CT and MRI settings.