Katie Couric on stage on Friday, September 7, 2018 in Santa Monica, California, during the 2018 Stand-Up 2 Cancer (SU2C) fundraising telecast.

The Lustgarten Foundation, America?s largest private funder of pancreatic cancer research and Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), working together in The Pancreatic Cancer Collective, a strategic initiative and partnership designed to improve cancer patient outcomes, have awarded a total of U.S $ 7 million in first-round “New Therapies Challenge” grants to seven teams of top cancer researchers to explore new pancreatic cancer treatment.

Cancer Interception, research supporting the earliest diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, even before the cancer may have fully formed, is the focus of one of the Dream Teams and one of the Research Teams. All told, these collaborative teams have planned, started, or completed 25 clinical trials. The Pancreatic Cancer Collective is building on this momentum to push the boundaries of what can be accomplished even further.

The expectation is that funding this research will help leading cancer research organizations attract new collaborators, improve diagnosis of pancreatic cancer using big data, and find new treatments for pancreatic cancer, leading to the next generation of pancreatic cancer treatment options and inspiring new investigators.

Nobel laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D, during the SU2C telecast which aired live from The Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, CA.on September 7, 2018

“New Therapies Challenge” grants
The award was announced by SU2C’s scientific partner, American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Each of the teams will receive up to U.S. $1 million in initial funding, with U.S. $ 4 million per team for clinical studies awaiting the most successful projects in the second round.

The Scientific Advisory Committee, led by Nobel laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D, staff at SU2C and the American Association for Cancer Research identified the best research proposals, which ultimately resulted in today’s announcement.

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First projects
These teams are the first projects funded under the Pancreatic Cancer Collective launched this spring to accelerate pancreatic cancer research and improve patient outcomes for pancreatic cancer, which is one of the deadliest cancers, with a five-year survival rate of only 8%, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“New and effective treatments are urgently needed for cancer of the pancreas,” said Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, the Nobel laureate who is chair of SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and scientific co-leader of the Collective.

“The two-step process created by the Pancreatic Cancer Collective is an innovative and flexible approach that will speed up the research process, help us have a real impact on pancreatic cancer, and bring new hope to patients and their families,” Sharp added.

The seven teams given funding in this first round of the Collective?s New Therapies Challenge will conduct their research for the next 14 months, reporting their results to the Collective and the Joint Scientific Advisory Committee (JSAC) which selected these teams. The second round of funding of $4 million per team will support clinical studies of the most promising teams from the first round.

“Pancreatic cancer research is moving faster than ever before,? said Kerri Kaplan, Lustgarten?s president and chief executive officer.

“Now is the time for innovation and acceleration towards improved treatment for the patients who so desperately need and deserve better options,” she added.

“We are in a very exciting place right now for pancreatic cancer research,? said David A. Tuveson, MD, PhD, Lustgarten?s Chief Scientist and director of the cancer center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, co-scientific leader of the Collective.

“We?re bringing together insights from immunology, targeted therapy, genomics, modeling, and other fields, and we?re going to find out what should go forward to clinical studies. We are very optimistic that we can make some real progress,” Tuveson explained.

“We launched this joint Collective to create a network of grants and researchers to accelerate the translation of research findings into treatments, through innovative and flexible models,”said Sung Poblete, PhD, RN, president and CEO of Stand Up To Cancer.

“We believe this New Therapies Challenge will help spur breakthroughs, and the potential for additional funding will spur even more breakthroughs,” Poblete noted.

Research Teams
The grants were awarded to:

  • Adoptive Transfer of TGF-? Resistant TIL to Defeat Immunosuppressive PDAC: Team leader: Patrick Hwu, MD, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; co-leaders: Chantale Bernatchez, PhD, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Cliona M. Rooney, PhD, Baylor College of Medicine. The team will create tumor-specific killer T cells (tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, or TILs) that are resistant to transforming growth factor beta (TGF-?) (a protein that can counteract the immune system), and use the TILs to attack pancreatic cancer.
  • Combined Targeting of MEK1/MEK2 and Autophagy for Pancreatic Cancer Therapy: Team leader: Martin McMahon, PhD, Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah; co-leader: Eric Collisson, MD, University of California San Francisco. The team will test combined blockade of intracellular signaling via the RAS pathway, and autophagic recycling of the cells? interior contents.
  • Exploiting DNA Repair Gene Mutations in Pancreatic Cancer: Team leader: Alan D. D?Andrea, MD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; co-leader: James M. Cleary, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The team?s goal is to evaluate DNA repair inhibitors in pancreatic cancer. It will seek to improve PARP inhibitor monotherapy by developing strategies that will combine different targeted therapies and have activity in patients with PARP inhibitor resistance.
  • Immunotherapy Targeting Mutant KRAS: Team leader: Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania; co-leaders: Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, and Beatriz M. Carreno, PhD, Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The team?s goal is to develop a cellular therapy that exploits novel cell engineering that can be used to manufacture highly selective, anti-cancer T cells on a per-patient basis.
  • Molecularly Targeted Radionuclide Therapy via the Integrin AlphaVBeta6: Team leader: Julie L. Sutcliffe, PhD, University of California Davis; co-leader, Richard L. Bold, MD, University of California Davis. The team will develop a peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) to attack a protein called integrin ?v?6 that is significantly upregulated in pancreatic cancer.
  • Targeting SHP2 in Pancreatic Cancer: Team leader: Ren? Bernards, DPhil, Netherlands Cancer Institute; co-leaders, Emile E. Voest, MD, PhD, Netherlands Cancer Institute, and Hana Alg?l, MD, MPH, Technical University of Munich. The team will test a combination of drugs to more effectively kill pancreatic tumors that have a mutation in the KRAS gene.
  • Targeting Stem Cell Signals in Pancreatic Cancer: Team leader: Tannishtha Reya, PhD, University of California San Diego School of Medicine; co-leaders: Andrew M. Lowy, MD, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, and Margaret A. Tempero, MD, University of California San Francisco. The team will test whether certain drugs can reduce growth of pancreatic cancer by inhibiting a hormone receptor that is believed to be a key regulator of pancreatic cancer stem cells.

Since its inception, the Lustgarten Foundation has directed U.S. $165 million to research and assembled the best scientific minds with the hope that one day, a cure can be found.

Thanks to separate funding to support administrative expenses, 100% of your donation goes directly to pancreatic cancer research.

Current members of the SU2C Council of Founders and Advisors (CFA) include Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Kathleen Lobb, Lisa Paulsen, Rusty Robertson, Sue Schwartz, Pamela Oas Williams, and Ellen Ziffren. The late Laura Ziskin and the late Noreen Fraser are also co-founders. Sung Poblete, PhD, RN, serves as SU2C?s president and CEO.

Last Editorial Review: November 20, 2018

Featured Image: Katie Couric on stage in The Barkar Hangar on Friday, September 7, 2018 in Santa Monica, California, during the 2018 Stand-Up 2 Cancer fundraising telecast. Courtesy: 2018 ? Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Stand Up To Cancer via ABC). Used with permission. Photo 1.0: Nobel laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D, during the SU2C telecast which aired live from The Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, CA.on September 7, 2018. Photo Credit / Courtesy: ? 2018 Sunvalley Communication / Evan Wendt. Used with permission.

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