2014 Grant Recipient Anirban Maitra, MBBS

Home Research Research Grants Program Grants Awarded Grants Awarded by Year 2014 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Research Grants 2014 Grant Recipient Anirban Maitra, MBBS

GRANTEE: Anirban Maitra, MBBS
Institution: MD Anderson Cancer Center
Research Project: Macrophage Function in Pancreatic Cancer-associated Diabetes
Award: 2014 Robert Aronson – Pancreatic Cancer Action Network – AACR Innovative Grant
Award Period: July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2016
Amount: $200,000

Click here to download Dr. Maitra’s 2014 Grant Snapshot (pdf)

Institution: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Research Project: Notch Signaling in Pancreas Cancer
Award: 2004 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network – AACR Career Development Award
Award Period: July 1, 2004 – June 30, 2006
Amount: $100,000

Click here to download Dr. Maitra’s 2004 Grant Snapshot (pdf )

Biographical Highlights
Dr. Maitra is a Professor of Pathology and Translational Molecular Pathology at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Scientific Director of the Sheikh Ahmed Bin Zayed Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research (since August 1, 2013). Prior to this appointment, Dr. Maitra had been at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine since 2001. In 2004, Dr. Maitra received a Career Development Award from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. He is a member of the organization’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Board. Over the past decade, Dr. Maitra’s group has made several seminal observations in the biology and genetics of pancreatic cancer. As a translational researcher, he has a major interest in the early detection of pancreatic cancer.

2014 Project Overview
Long-standing diabetes is considered a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. However, recent studies have shown that new-onset diabetes, especially in the elderly, might be a marker of an underlying pancreatic cancer. About one-half to two-thirds of pancreatic cancer patients have been diagnosed with new-onset diabetes in the prior 36 months. Given that there are millions of elderly Americans diagnosed with new-onset diabetes each year, and that fewer than 1 percent harbor an underlying pancreatic cancer, there is an obvious need to segregate the vast majority of patients who do not require further imaging studies from the few that will likely benefit.

The objective of Dr. Maitra’s proposal is to identify novel biomarkers that can differentiate diabetic patients who merit further screening for pancreatic cancer from those that do not. The research team’s preliminary data suggests that there are significant functional differences in the status of a blood cell type known as “monocytes” between patients with pancreatic cancer associated diabetes and those with the usual type 2 diabetes. In this grant proposal, Dr. Maitra and colleagues will obtain blood samples from groups of patients who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes alone, pancreatic cancer alone, and pancreatic cancer associated diabetes. They will analyze multiple elements of monocyte function in these three groups, in order to validate their initial hypothesis on differences in function between usual type 2 diabetics and those with pancreatic cancer-associated diabetes. The National Cancer Institute has recently designated research into pancreatic cancer-associated diabetes as one of the top priorities for improving the dire prognosis of pancreatic cancer. Dr. Maitra’s study, through identification of biomarkers that can “turn back the clock” on the timing of pancreatic cancer diagnosis in new-onset diabetics, could greatly improve prognosis in this patient subset.

2004 Project Overview
The Notch signaling pathway is a series of cell receptors and ligands (molecules that bind to the receptors) that cause growth and changes in the cells. The Notch pathway is important in the development of cells in embryos. It is normally turned off or dormant in adult cells. However, active Notch signaling has been found in several human cancers. Dr. Maitra has demonstrated that Notch signaling plays a role in precancerous changes both in humans and mouse models of pancreatic cancer. The funded project tests the theory that the Notch signaling pathway plays a cancer promoting role in pancreatic cancer and attempts to determine if inhibiting Notch signaling has potential therapeutic value. Plans are to manipulate different components of the Notch pathway in pancreatic cancer cells and then grow them in the lab to determine if cell growth is affected. The Notch pathway will then be inhibited in pancreatic cancer mouse models to see if tumor growth is inhibited. The study will be the first functional characterization of Notch signaling in human pancreas cancer and will determine the basis for therapeutic targeting of the pathway in pancreatic cancer.