If you’ve made an online donation to PanCAN, hosted a fundraiser, supported a PurpleStride team or contributed in any other way toward PanCAN’s mission – then YOU made this possible. We are thrilled to announce that PanCAN has made its largest-ever investment in research and research grants this year.
In 2022, 25 research grants have been awarded – including 16 newly awarded grants and nine extensions to support next steps of promising projects – totaling a record $10.5 million. Overall, PanCAN invested nearly $25 million in research this year, which includes our grants program as well as our transformational scientific and clinical initiatives, including the PanCAN Precision PromiseSM adaptive clinical trial and PanCAN’s Early Detection Initiative.
To date, PanCAN has awarded an incredible 234 grants to 213 scientists at 79 institutions. This year’s cohort includes 10 scientists receiving their first PanCAN grant and four new institutions that the organization hasn’t funded before. All grantees are selected through a peer-review process to ensure the merit and promise of the proposed projects.
“The diversity of all aspects of our grants program – career stage, types of projects, geographical location of the investigators and other demographics – is representative of the comprehensive approach PanCAN takes to make progress against pancreatic cancer,” said PanCAN Chief Science Officer Lynn Matrisian, PhD, MBA.
The PanCAN 2022 Research Grants Program includes three categories: funding early-career investigators, supporting projects aiming to improve treatment options for patients and projects focused on devising effective early detection strategies.
Funding Early-career Investigators
Since the inception of PanCAN’s Research Grants Program in 2003, we’ve directed funding toward early-career investigators to support the establishment of their labs and their focus on pancreatic cancer. This year’s grants portfolio includes seven new Career Development Award recipients and one extension to a Career Development Award originally funded in 2020. The new Career Development Awards provide $250,000 in funding – up from $200,000 in previous years – over a two-year period. The extension will provide $100,000 for one year.
This year’s Career Development Award new and extension recipients are:
- Brittany Allen-Petersen, PhD, Purdue University, funded by The Rockhammer Charitable Fund
- Jashodeep Datta, MD, University of Miami
- G. Aaron Hobbs, PhD, Medical University of South Carolina Hollings Cancer Center, in memory of Skip Viragh
- Janielle Maynard, PhD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine funded by the Chrysalis Fund at the Ventura County Community Foundation
- Jami Saloman, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, in memory of Skip Viragh
- Rahul Shinde, PhD, The Wistar Institute
- Kea Turner, PhD, Moffitt Cancer Center
- Gillian Gresham, PhD, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, funded by the George & June Block Family Foundation (grant extension)
Although considerable progress has been made toward the treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer, there are still too few effective treatment options available. PanCAN is committed to funding innovative research in the lab and clinic to bring forth new and more effective treatment options to help patients live longer and better lives.
With the intention of accelerating progress in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector to develop new investigational drugs that can be tested through the PanCAN Precision Promise adaptive clinical trial, we introduced the Therapeutic Accelerator Award this year. The inaugural PanCAN Therapeutic Accelerator Award went to Verastem Oncology to support early-phase clinical trial testing of their investigational drugs VS-6766 and defactinib, a RAF/MEK clamp and a FAK inhibitor, respectively.
In addition to $3.8 million in funding to support Verastem’s early-phase clinical trial, the PanCAN Therapeutic Accelerator Collaborative was formed as a partnership between Verastem, the academic community and PanCAN to further study the investigational treatment combination and consider strategies to enhance its effectiveness. The Collaborative is co-led by Gregory L. Beatty, MD, PhD, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania; Lynn Matrisian, PhD, MBA, PanCAN; and Jonathan Pachter, PhD, Verastem Oncology. The projects being conducted through the Collaborative aim to identify and mitigate potential ways the tumor may be or become resistant to the investigational treatment, determine if other drugs could enhance its effects and find out if certain tumor characteristics could suggest which patients would be most likely to benefit from the treatment.
The inaugural Therapeutic Accelerator Award recipient is:
- Louis Denis, MD, Verastem Oncology, supported by the 1440 Foundation and the Gail V. Coleman-Kenneth M. Bruntel Research Fund
And the recipients of the Therapeutic Accelerator Collaborative Award are:
- Andrew Aguirre, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, funded by the Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation honoring the memory of Shirley Sadoff
- Gregory L. Beatty, MD, PhD, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, funded in memory of Llewellyn Bixby IV, through a gift made by his family
- David DeNardo, PhD, Washington University in St. Louis
- Louis Denis, MD, Verastem Oncology
- Channing Der, PhD, and Kirsten Bryant, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, funded in memory of Llewellyn Bixby IV, through a gift made by his family
- Marina Pasca di Magliano, PhD, University of Michigan, funded by the Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation honoring the memory of Shirley Sadoff
Recipients of PanCAN Translational Research Grants awarded in 2020 will receive $250,000 extensions over the next year to continue their highly promising work. Translational research refers to the experiments that bridge the gap between the lab and the clinic – the final preclinical studies necessary to determine if an investigational treatment strategy warrants additional testing in patients.
The recipients of the 2022 PanCAN Translational Research Grant Extensions, funded by Kenneth D. Custance and Gladys C. Custance, honoring the memory of Martha ‘Molly’ Reed Woodroofe, are:
- Susan Bates, MD, Columbia University
- Fengzhi Li, PhD, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
- Kenneth Olive, PhD, Columbia University
- Xiaoyang Qi, PhD, University of Cincinnati
- Jill Smith, MD, Georgetown University
The final category of treatment-related grants is Precision Medicine Targeted Grants. The two recipients of our Precision Medicine Targeted Grants, originally awarded in 2017, have continued to make exciting progress through these awards and have received an additional extension this year.
The Precision Medicine Targeted Grant Extensions go to:
- Gregory L. Beatty, MD, PhD, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, funded by Leslie Gaynor in memory of Phyllis Bolotin
- Sunil R. Hingorani, MD, PhD, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Early Detection-related Projects
In order to improve outcomes for patients faced with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, progress needs to be made on both ends of the spectrum – finding better treatments and discovering ways to detect the disease earlier. The keys to earlier detection of pancreatic cancer include conducting the right tests, at the right time, on the right high-risk individuals.
The early detection-related projects funded by PanCAN research grants this year focus on two populations considered at potential elevated risk. One is looking at people with a new diabetes diagnosis and other clinical characteristics – the group that is the focus of the PanCAN Early Detection Initiative. The other projects relate to an initiative known as REGENERATE, which aims to improve access to genetic testing and awareness of early pancreatic cancer prevention strategies among at-risk Black and Latino/a/x families.
The 2022 PanCAN early detection-related research grant recipients are:
- Suresh Chari, MD, MD Anderson Cancer Center, funded by Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation honoring the memory of Shirley Sadoff
- Nicolette Juliana Rodriguez, MD, MPH, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
- Sapna Syngal, MD, MPH, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (grant extension)
We would like to thank Janssen Research & Development, LLC, and a generous foundation for their partial support of the REGENERATE project.
In addition to receiving funding to conduct experiments in the lab or clinic, PanCAN research grant recipients become members of our Community for Progress. This dynamic group of researchers is highly collaborative, providing mentorship and support to junior investigators and determining ways to work together toward the common goal of improving pancreatic cancer patient outcomes.
“It is an honor for us to provide funding and support to these scientists and clinicians who are working tirelessly to make an impact against this deadly disease,” Matrisian said. “We eagerly await the results of our grantees’ projects and look forward to sharing the encouraging progress that gets made.”
She added, “And we plan to invest another $23 million in research in 2023, because there’s more work to be done!”