april 20, 2009


American Association for Cancer Research and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
Award $1.1 Million in Grants for Innovative Research

DENVER, CO – April, 20, 2009 -- The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the American Association for Cancer Research awarded $1.1 million in research grants to young and experienced researchers who have innovative ideas for the treatment and cure of pancreatic cancer. The 2009 research grant awards were distributed to nine researchers across the country.

“The AACR is committed to curing and preventing all types of cancer. The death rates due to pancreatic cancer remain extremely high,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), chief executive officer of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). “The AACR is proud to work with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in this effort to make inroads against pancreatic cancer.”

These grants, which come in the form of pilot grants, career development awards and fellowships, represent a joint effort to promote and support new ideas and innovative models that have direct application and relevance to pancreatic cancer.

“The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is thrilled to announce our newest grant recipients adding to a cadre of scientists the organization has supported over the years. As the grant program continues to grow, we are excited to support early career scientists and innovative ideas that will hopefully lead to early detection methods, better treatment options and ultimately a cure for pancreatic cancer,” stated Julie Fleshman, president and CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. “Partnering with the AACR ensures the best science is funded through its peer review process to truly make progress against pancreatic cancer.”

The largest of these grants, called “pilot grants,” are awarded as two-year grants of between $100,000 and $200,000. Grant funds support direct research expenses, which may include salary and benefits of postdoctoral/clinical research fellows or research assistants.

This year, the four Pilot Grants recipients are:

Brian Lewis, Ph.D., an associate professor in the program in gene function and expression and program in molecular medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, received an award for his work on microRNAs and their role in the development of pancreatic tumorigenesis. Lewis is currently working on molecular studies that compare the effect of the Kras oncogene on pancreatic cells in the presence or absence of microRNAs. He expects that this research will contribute significantly to the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic tumorigenesis.

Qingshen Gao, M.D., an assistant professor in the Department of medicine at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Research Institute, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Evanston, Il., received an award for his work in the discovery of novel pancreatic cancer susceptibility genes. His research will base on their Pancreatic Cancer Family Registry, which currently has 276 participants. He proposes to screen all 13 candidate genes in the sample collection for germline mutations to uncover new pancreatic cancer susceptibility genes. The findings could lead to a test with immediate applicability to patients with a family history of pancreatic cancer.

Jiayuh Lin, Ph.D., a principal investigator at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and an Associate Professor at the Ohio State University Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio, received an award for his work in developing dual inhibitors to target JAK2/STAT3 for novel pancreatic cancer therapy.  Early research suggests that STAT3 is frequently activated in pancreatic cancer and the inhibition of STAT3 could prevent tumor cell growth, survival, and spread.   Lin and his colleagues will develop and evaluate novel small molecules that target STAT3 along with the growth and malignant behavior of human pancreatic cancer cells in tissue culture-based and in animal-based tumor models.     It is also a goal for this proposal to provide pre-clinical evidence of our pharmacological compounds that inhibit STAT3 for future clinical trials. 

Kapil Mehta, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of experimental therapeutics at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, received an award for his work studying tissue transglutaminase, which is expressed at high levels in the majority of pancreatic tumor samples. Mehta and his team hypothesize that bad expression of tissue transglutaminase promotes drug resistance and metastasis in pancreatic cancer. The award is in memory of Seena Magowitz.

Recipients of the Career Development Awards, who will receive $100,000 as two-year grants, are:

Maxence Nachury, Ph.D., an assistant professor of molecular and cellular physiology at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., received an award for his work studying a candidate tumor suppressor organelle, the primary cilium, which may provide insight to enable therapeutic strategies for pancreatic cancer. It is believed that primary cilium plays a key role in cellular abnormalities. The award is in memory of Larry Kwicinski.

Marina Pasca di Magliano, Ph.D., an assistant professor of surgery in the division of surgical oncology, section of general surgery at the University of Michigan Health Systems, Ann Arbor, will receive an award for her work in studying Notch signaling. Notch signaling is known to play a role in pancreatic organ development, and it has been shown to be active in some forms of pancreatic cancer, however, its exact role is as yet unknown. The award is in memory of Paul Mitchell.

Recipients of the Fellowship Awards, who will receive $45,000 for a one-year grant, are:

Philippe Foubert, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego, will study the role of inflammation in pancreatic tumor progression. Specifically, he will study the role of alpha4 integrin, an inflammatory cell adhesion molecule, in the regulation of immunosuppression during solid tumor progression.

Eric W. Humke, M.D., Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in oncology and developmental biology at Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, Calif., received an award for a study that will determine the genetic alterations in pancreatic cancer that induce release of the Sonic hedgehog pathway that leads to growth and proliferation. The award is in memory of Samuel Stroum.

David T. Ting, M.D., an assistant physician in the departments of internal medicine and pediatrics at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, received an award to study the role of circulating tumor cells in the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Circulating tumor cells have been studied in other cancer types, but their exact role remains a mystery.

To learn more about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Research Grants Program, visit www.pancan.org.

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About the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is the only national organization creating hope in a comprehensive way through research, patient support, community outreach and advocacy for a cure. The organization raises money for direct private funding of research—and advocates for more aggressive federal research funding of medical breakthroughs in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network fills the void of information and options by giving patients and caregivers reliable, personalized information they need to make informed decisions. We create a sense of hope and community so no one has to face pancreatic cancer alone. The organization helps support individuals and communities all across the country to work together to raise awareness and funds to find a cure for pancreatic cancer.

About the American Association for Cancer Research

The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes more than 28,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and nearly 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. The AACR publishes six major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; and Cancer Prevention Research. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists. CR provides a forum for sharing essential, evidence-based information and perspectives on progress in cancer research, survivorship and advocacy.

Jennifer Rosen
Senior Manager, Public Relations
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
Direct: 310-706-3362


Jeremy Moore
Senior Manager of Science Communications
American Association of Cancer Research
In Denver April 18-22: 303-228-8415
Email: jeremy.moore@aacr.org