Pancreas Matters letter, Lynn Matrisian

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Dear Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Friends:

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s 2013 research grants program, which was established in 2003. Remarkably, more than $4 million in grants will be distributed this year, the highest sum awarded annually to date. The 2013 funding brings the grand total bestowed through the program over the past decade to an incredible $16.7 million.

A major goal of our research grants program is to build and strengthen the community of scientists and clinicians committed to fighting the disease. During the past decade, our grants have been administered in partnership with the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the oldest and largest scientific organization in the world focused on cancer. The AACR assembles peer-review committees each year to evaluate our grant applications and to ensure that the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network supports the most meritorious research projects without any bias.

Twenty five percent of the 2013 research funding will be devoted to a new mechanism called the Research Acceleration Network grant, or RAN. The RAN grant is our largest yet, providing an unprecedented sum of $1 million for research. The RAN grant was designed with a razor-sharp focus on our goal to double the pancreatic cancer survival rate by 2020.

While our other grant mechanisms support individual scientists, the RAN grant will fund at least two researchers who represent multiple academic research centers and bring complementary expertise to a joint project. The RAN grant will support a project that builds on existing, highly promising work and extends it through a clinical research phase to determine if it can be directly translated into patient benefit. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network will additionally provide rigorous project management services so the research can be advanced as quickly and efficiently as possible. We are hopeful that this innovative new funding mechanism will be instrumental in helping us accelerate progress in the laboratory that may soon directly impact patient outcomes.

The remaining 75 percent of our investment this year will go towards pre-existing grant mechanisms, aimed at growing the research community by two main strategies: attracting and retaining earlier career scientists in the field, and bringing in new experts from other disciplines to focus on pancreatic cancer. These approaches remain critical to building and sustaining a strong foundation of researchers dedicated to the disease, and permitting further growth and expansion of our knowledge about pancreatic cancer.

The Pathway to Leadership, Fellowship, and Career Development Awards are designed to support scientists at critical moments early in their careers as they decide upon a research focus and build the individual knowledge and infrastructure necessary to pursue their experimental endeavors. Our Innovative Grant provides funding to independent scientists at any point in their careers, encouraging novel and creative ideas and experimental techniques. Moreover, the Innovative Grant is ideal for attracting specialists in other fields to apply their expertise to the fight against pancreatic cancer.

These mechanisms have demonstrated a proven track record of success. Between 2003 and 2009, we found that, for every dollar we invested in our grants program, our grant recipients went on to receive $8.61 in subsequent funding to support their continued pancreatic cancer research endeavors.

Combining the established grant mechanisms, the new RAN grant, and the incredible sum of $4 million to distribute, I have no doubt that this year will be a very exciting one for our research grants program. We will continue to work closely with the scientific and medical communities to ensure that we reach the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s goal to double the survival rate of pancreatic cancer by 2020.

None of this would be possible without your continued support of our comprehensive research strategy, which includes our ongoing push for increased federal funding for pancreatic cancer research and passage of the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act. We remain deeply appreciative for your support of all of these efforts.

With gratitude and excitement,

Lynn Matrisian, PhD
Vice President of Scientific and Medical Affairs
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network