Targeting Stem Cell Signals - Stand Up To Cancer

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Pancreatic Cancer Collective Research Team:
Targeting Stem Cell Signals in Pancreatic Cancer New Therapies Challenge

Grant Term: November 2018–December 2019

Researchers on this team have identified a subpopulation of cells in pancreatic cancer that act like stem cells and help the cancer to proliferate. The team has also found that these cells are especially resistant to therapeutic drugs but may be sensitive to a new approach. The team is testing whether blocking a protein that regulates inflammation can slow or stop the growth of pancreatic cancer. Promising drugs in this class are already in development for autoimmune diseases, so if this approach is successful, doctors may be able to deploy it rapidly to develop new treatments for pancreatic cancer. 


There is a critical need to identify new therapeutics that can more effectively block tumor growth and metastasis in pancreatic cancer. This team has identified a subpopulation of cells in pancreatic cancer that have some characteristics of stem cells and display the capacity to drive disease progression and therapy resistance. A particular regulator of inflammation and the immune response has been found to be highly enriched in pancreatic cancer stem cells and critically required for their ability to drive tumor growth and progression.

Based on these findings, the team is testing whether delivery of a pharmacological inhibitor can block growth and progression of pancreatic cancer in genetically engineered models of the disease. This work has the potential for rapid translation and high impact because these inhibitors are already in clinical trials for autoimmune diseases, including two that are delivered orally. Thus, this Team’s studies will pave the way for a clinical trial testing of the efficacy of targeting a regulator of inflammation and the immune response in pancreatic cancer therapy.

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


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