As the first organization dedicated to fighting pancreatic cancer in a comprehensive way, PanCAN has been leading a nationwide movement to tackle the disease from all angles for over two decades. We have invested more than $208 million into research and with your support, we are poised to make even more breakthroughs for patients.

In 2023, we made our largest ever single-year investment – more than $34 million – in research, which includes our grants program as well as our large-scale scientific and clinical initiatives. As part of that overall record-breaking investment, made possible by our generous donors, we are excited to award nine research grants.

All grantees were selected through a peer-review process to ensure the merit and promise of the proposed projects.

“This year marks 20 years of PanCAN awarding research grants – and over that time we have established ourselves as the catalyst for change in the pancreatic cancer community. We fund bright and motivated scientists with innovative ideas and provide the resources needed to attack this disease from every possible direction,” said PanCAN Chief Science Officer Lynn Matrisian, PhD, MBA.

This year’s grants portfolio includes four Career Development Award recipients – researchers new to the field who are poised to make groundbreaking discoveries and become mentors to the next generation – as well as two additional types of grants aimed at researchers establishing their careers.

The Career Development Awards provide $250,000 in funding over a two-year period. This year’s Career Development Award recipients are:

  • William Freed-Pastor, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, for a project titled Immunopeptidomics to Accelerate Immunotherapies in Pancreas Cancer. This award is funded in memory of Llewellyn Bixby IV, through a gift made by his family.
  • Arjun Gupta, MD, University of Minnesota Medical School, for a project titled Medication-related Financial Burdens in Older Adults with Pancreatic Cancer
  • William Hwang, MD, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital, for a project titled Mechanisms of Cancer-Nerve Dynamics in Pancreatic Cancer. This award is funded by Rick Star in Memory of Janet Ranta Star.
  • Ivana Peran, PhD, Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, for a project titled Role of Stromal Cadherin 11 in Chemotherapy Response in Pancreatic Cancer

New this year, PanCAN offered a Cancer Informatics & Data Science Research Fellowship to a scholar proposing a project utilizing PanCAN’s SPARK health data platform. SPARK breaks down the traditional barriers to accelerating research by making robust data from PanCAN’s Know Your Tumor® precision medicine service available to researchers. This award recipient plans to leverage that data to get us closer to new treatments and improved survival.

The recipient of this year’s two-year, $177,000 grant is:

  • Basil Bakir, MD, PhD, Columbia University, for a project titled Predictive Biomarkers for Chemotherapy Through Master Regulator Analysis

Thanks to the generosity of The Francois Wallace Monahan Fund, in loving memory of Michael Insel, we also selected two pancreatic cancer researchers of French descent to receive Fellowship Awards. Originally funded in 2021, these grants are directed toward trainees in the labs of previous PanCAN research grant recipients to support the promising work of young investigators.

The recipients of these two-year, $150,000 grants are:

  • Guillaume Cognet, PhD, University of Chicago, for a project titled Glycine Availability in the PDAC Tumor Microenvironment as a Driver of Chemoresistance
  • Julien Dilly, MS, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, for a project titled Understanding Mechanisms of Response and Resistance to RAS-pathway Inhibition in Pancreatic Cancer

The PanCAN Research Grants Program also funds projects that strengthen our large-scale clinical initiatives. PanCAN launched its Early Detection Initiative to study the relationship between changes in blood sugar and weight, and the development – and detection – of pancreatic cancer. The goal is to determine whether imaging for individuals experiencing these changes can lead to detecting pancreatic cancer in its earlier, more treatable stages. This year, PanCAN is funding a research project in parallel to our ongoing Early Detection Initiative to strengthen the way we identify individuals most likely to benefit from imaging tests for early signs of pancreatic cancer.

The recipient of this one-year, $225,000 grant is:

  • Wansu Chen, PhD, Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation, for a project titled Recent-onset Hyperglycemia and the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer: An Enhancement of the ENDPAC Model

Last year, PanCAN introduced the Therapeutic Accelerator Award to develop new investigational drugs that may be tested through the PanCAN Precision PromiseSM adaptive clinical trial. We are continuing to forge new partnerships in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors through this program and we plan to announce the recipient of the second annual award later this fall.

Taken together, the nine grants PanCAN is funding this year promise to unlock new discoveries and bring hope to patients and families. This means the future looks bright, said PanCAN Chief Science Officer Dr. Matrisian.

“Over the past 20 years, PanCAN has successfully built and strengthened a robust community of scientific and clinical researchers dedicated to improving and extending the lives of everyone affected by pancreatic cancer,” she said. “We are proud to welcome new investigators into that community and closely watch their progress, made possible by PanCAN’s generous donors and supporters nationwide.”

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