Scientists at the Wilmot Cancer Institute are working toward doubling the survival rates for pancreatic cancer by 2020—and to help achieve that goal the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network recently awarded $300,000.
The funding supports David C. Linehan, M.D., chair of the UR Department of Surgery and director of Clinical Operations at Wilmot. He’s investigating an experimental treatment and its appropriate dose and timing in mice, so that future clinical trials can be designed to benefit cancer patients.
Linehan’s research focuses on cells known as inflammatory monocytes (IMs), which are non-tumor cells produced in the bone marrow that migrate toward pancreas tumors and promote the spread of the disease. In earlier mouse studies, he showed that by blocking IMs with a novel small-molecule inhibitor, he could slow tumor growth and prevent metastasis. He then completed a phase 1b clinical trial for patients with locally advanced disease, evaluating an experimental IM inhibitor in combination with standard chemotherapy.
Although the drug was well tolerated and showed promise for controlling localized disease, it is unclear whether the same approach will work for patients with cancer that has already spread. The new mouse studies will help to identify which subgroups of patients would derive the most benefit, as well as the appropriate doses and combinations with other therapies.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the few types for which survival has not improved substantially in the last 40 years. At diagnosis, about half of all patients have disease that has already spread, mostly to the liver. Therefore, Linehan said, targeting metastasis is a key to boosting survival. The funding cycle for the award begins July 1.