MANHATTAN BEACH, CA (January 12, 2015) — The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNLCR) have joined together to award two Fellowships to support research on KRAS mutations that are relevant to pancreatic cancer in order to improve treatment outcomes.  Through a competitive peer review process, two 2015 Fellowships have been awarded. The recipients are John Hunter, Ph.D., at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and Lynn McGregor, Ph.D., at the University of California, San Francisco.

In 2013, under the leadership of NCI Director Harold Varmus, M.D., the NCI established the RAS Initiative, which is being spearheaded at FNLCR under the scientific leadership of Frank McCormick, PhD, a world renowned RAS investigator and former director of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. The RAS Initiative focuses on the role that mutations in the family of genes called rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (RAS) have in cancer and the development of therapies to treat RAS-driven cancers. KRAS is the most commonly mutated gene in the RAS family, and is involved in 95 percent of pancreatic cancer cases, and a high percentage of other cancers, most notably colorectal and lung. The KRAS mutation is associated with especially aggressive tumors and also with resistance to chemotherapy and targeted cancer therapies.  The RAS Initiative has the potential to significantly increase the survival rate for pancreatic cancer as well as for other forms of cancer that are driven by KRAS mutations.

“We are thrilled to join forces with the National Cancer Institute’s Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research on the 2015 Fellowships. This represents a unique collaboration that can serve as a model for other public-private grant partnerships,” stated Julie Fleshman, president and CEO for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.  “This partnership comes at a critical time, as pancreatic cancer is projected to climb from the fourth to the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States by 2020. We urgently need to make scientific advances to improve the treatment landscape for this disease and ultimately improve pancreatic cancer survival.”

“Our knowledge of RAS has grown tremendously over the past few decades, but we have yet to convert that knowledge into drugs that directly target mutant RAS proteins. Recent research developments and advances in technology have created promising opportunities to attack RAS proteins and now is a critical time to re-energize our efforts in this area,” said Dr. McCormick. “We are delighted to be partnering with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network to support research aligned with the RAS Initiative, and will be working closely with the two Fellows, Drs. Hunter and McGregor, to optimize research outcomes for clinical benefit.”

In addition to receiving financial support for their research, Drs. Hunter and McGregor will receive training and mentorship by Dr. McCormick and the RAS team at FNLCR and will have access to state-of-the-art technology. They also will be involved in the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Community for Progress and have opportunities to participate in scientific meetings, establish research collaborations, and engage with the broader pancreatic cancer community.

This year, an estimated 49,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and more than 40,500 will die from the disease. Only 7 percent of those diagnosed survive more than five years. A study by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, published in the journal Cancer Research, predicts that by 2020 pancreatic cancer will surpass breast and colorectal cancer to become the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.

Since 2003, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has awarded 112 grants totaling nearly $23 million in funding. This includes 16 Fellowships to attract promising early career investigators to pancreatic cancer research. Grants are awarded through a rigorous peer-review system. The Scientific Review Committee for the 2015 Fellowships included leading experts in pancreatic cancer and RAS research.

About the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is the national organization creating hope in a comprehensive way through research, patient support, community outreach and advocacy for a cure. The organization is leading the way to increase survival for people diagnosed with this devastating disease through a bold initiative — The Vision of Progress: Double Pancreatic Cancer Survival by 2020. Together, we can Wage Hope in the fight against pancreatic cancer by intensifying our efforts to heighten awareness, raise funds for comprehensive private research, and advocate for dedicated federal research to advance early diagnostics and better treatments and increase chances of survival.

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About Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research
Located in Frederick, MD, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNLCR) was established in 1981 under the National Cancer Act and is the only Federally Funded Research and Development Center dedicated to biomedical research. Overseen by the NCI, FNLCR provides rapid response capabilities and one-of-a-kind resources for the entire biomedical research community. Its scientists develop technologies and perform studies to support the NCI’s mission as well as the work of other NIH institutes. FNLCR uses a unique contract mechanism to bring public and private partners together to solve difficult medical research challenges and provides its researchers with scientific tools, services, and information to enable and expedite their investigations.

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Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
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NCI RAS Initiative
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