Immunotherapy Targeting Mutant KRAS - Stand Up To Cancer

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Pancreatic Cancer Collective Research Team: Immunotherapy Targeting Mutant KRAS

Grant Terms
Round 1: November 2018–December 2019
Round 2: January 2020–June 2023

Mutations in the KRAS oncogene drive the vast majority of pancreatic cancers. This research team used knowledge of the immune system and innovative bioinformatic, biochemistry and cell biology strategies to isolate T cells that can target the cancer-promoting gene. The team is studying two novel precision therapies involving highly selective white blood cells that can be given to patients with resected pancreatic cancer and will then study the most promising of these vaccines in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Supported by:


The goal of the Pancreatic Cancer Collective Research Team: Immunotherapy Targeting Mutant KRAS is to develop a cellular therapy that exploits novel cell engineering to manufacture highly selective anticancer T cells on an individual patient basis. The approach is similar to T cell therapies recently approved by the FDA that target leukemia and lymphoma, except the team is targeting mutant KRAS in pancreatic cancer.

The team has been able to isolate T cells specific for mutant KRAS and has successfully grown these cells from multiple donors. In this study the researchers are isolating more KRAS T cells obtained from three groups of people: normal individuals, patients with mutant KRAS tumors, and pancreatic cancer patients who are being treated with vaccines against mutant KRAS. Based on their pre-clinical studies, the team is testing two novel vaccines in the clinic aimed at triggering mKRAS immune responses in patients with resected pancreatic cancer. In round two of funding, the team plans to use the most promising T-cell receptor identified and conduct a clinical trial of engineered T cell therapy for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

This team is part of the Pancreatic Cancer Collective, an initiative of the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research and Stand Up To Cancer.


The top scientists and researchers on the Pancreatic Cancer Collective Research Team: Immunotherapy Targeting Mutant KRAS come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, which leads them to great insights upon collaboration. Learn more about the Pancreatic Cancer Collective Research Team: Immunotherapy Targeting Mutant KRAS.

Research Team Members

Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil,
University of Pennsylvania

Beatriz Carreno, PhD
University of Pennsylvania

Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD
Johns Hopkins University

Mark O’Hara, MD
University of Pennsylvania

Colleen Redlinger
University of Pennsylvania
Project Manager

“What we’re attempting to do is to develop T cells or lymphocytes that can recognize a specific mutation that most pancreatic patients have, and that’s mutated KRAS. We’re aiming at KRAS because over 90 percent of pancreatic patients express mutated KRAS and it’s an important target . . . The immune system is very smart. The T cell just goes after that protein and kills the whole cancer.”

Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD
Johns Hopkins University


Stand Up To Cancer’s research projects are designed to foster collaborative, swift translational research. The hallmarks of these efforts include rigorous application and selection procedures, sufficient funding to allow scientists to focus on the objectives of the grant, and reviews by senior scientists every six months. These reviews help the investigators capitalize on the latest findings, address potential roadblocks, and collaboratively evolve as the science requires. Please click below to see summaries of the research results so far for the Pancreatic Cancer Collective Research Team: Immunotherapy Targeting Mutant KRAS.



This team started its work in November 2018; links to publications will be posted when they are available.


Cancer clinical trials allow researchers to study innovative and potentially life-saving new treatments. The goal is to find treatments that are better than what’s currently available, in fact the therapies offered to today’s cancer patients were almost all studied and made possible by people participating in clinical trials. But many cancer clinical trials don’t get completed because not enough people participate.

At, you’ll find information and answers to common questions about clinical trials. Learn more and talk to your doctor to see if a clinical trial may be the best choice for you.



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