Dr David Dawson

I am an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where I am a sub-specialty gastrointestinal pathologist in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and cancer researcher in the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

As a consequence of my clinical practice, I am acutely aware of the aggressive behavior and biology of pancreatic cancer. My awareness of the aggressive nature of this disease and the challenges it poses has propelled me to pursue both basic and translational research in pancreatic cancer. Like many of my scientific and medical colleagues, the goal of my research is to clear up the long list of unknowns about pancreatic cancer, including why cells in the pancreas become cancerous, why pancreatic cancer is such an aggressive disease, and why it is so difficult to treat.

My present work involves efforts to bank pancreatic tumor tissue, as well as successful research projects investigating the role of genome-wide epigenetic alterations and the Wnt signaling pathway in pancreatic cancer. My research has identified clinically distinct subsets of pancreatic adenocarcinoma that are defined by unique molecular and signaling pathway signatures. Indeed, future molecular-targeted therapy for pancreatic cancer will likely not be used generically, but instead be individually tailored based on a given tumor’s specific molecular signature.

Research is a time-consuming and painstaking process, made all the harder knowing pancreatic cancer patients have little time to wait for lifesaving discoveries to be made. This knowledge propels me and constantly re-invigorates my efforts in the laboratory each day.

I am also motivated by the common purpose and strength of commitment of the community working to raise public awareness and the funds needed to advance research for pancreatic cancer. Indeed, the best way to turn the tide on this disease is through all of our efforts to increase research and public awareness of pancreatic cancer.

I am humbled to be working in this field and look forward to the time when we are able to say that we know how to prevent and cure pancreatic cancer.