Cancer Research UK, The Lustgarten foundation and Stand Up To Cancer join forces in £8 million pancreatic cancer venture

Cancer Research Technology (CRT)

CRUK Lustgarten SU2C Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team HD

Cancer Research UK, The Lustgarten Foundation, and Stand Up To Cancer have come together in an international collaboration worth £8 million ($12 million) to announce funding for a pancreatic cancer research ‘Dream Team’.

"These are among the finest researchers in the world and we’re really excited by the potential of their ideas in the fight against this terrible disease” - Dr Iain Foulkes, Cancer Research UK

This innovative funding approach, into a cancer with low survival rates and in urgent need of better treatments, will support over 24 researchers across the UK and US over the next three years.

This transatlantic ‘Dream Team’ of top researchers will tackle the toughest questions in pancreatic cancer. The initiative will research new ways to turn off faulty molecular switches in pancreatic cancer cells, which control the behaviour of a wide range of genes that can play a part in the development of the disease. 

Ultimately the research aims to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy and harness the power of the patient’s own immune system, leading to new ways to prevent pancreatic cancer from returning after initial treatment.  

Professor Gerard Evan, Cancer Research UK’s co-leader of the ‘Dream Team’ and cancer gene expert at the University of Cambridge, said: “Despite the apparent diversity in pancreatic cancer, there are remarkable similarities in the biological pathways behind pancreatic tumours. Our goal is to exploit these to identify common targets for the development of more accurate and effective treatments for patients affected by this awful disease.”

Around 8,500 in the UK and an estimated 40,000 people in the US will die from pancreatic cancer this year. The disease is the seventh leading cause of cancer death worldwide.

Professor Daniel Von Hoff, director of translational research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, Arizona, who is leading the research team, said: “We’re going after pancreatic cancer in a different way. We will use new and existing drugs to reprogramme the master regulatory biological machinery in cancer cells that drives tumour growth. This machinery comprises molecular complexes of DNA and proteins that are known as ‘super enhancers’ for their ability to coordinate the expression of a large number of genes.

“By resetting the malfunctioning genome in both pancreatic tumour cells as well as the surrounding non-cancer cells on which the cancer cells rely for support, the team will try to increase the sensitivity of tumours to chemotherapy and make them vulnerable to the patient’s immune response.”

Kerri Kaplan, executive director and chief operating officer of The Lustgarten Foundation, said: “To eradicate pancreatic cancer will take a collaborative effort and private funding plays a critical role in accelerating the development of new clinical trials for this deadly disease. This international collaboration will bring together leading global experts in the field of pancreatic cancer research, and together, we will focus on developing new therapies and innovative approaches so patients can benefit and live longer lives.”

Dr Iain Foulkes, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of research funding, said: “Survival from pancreatic cancer is low - only three percent of patients in the UK survive their disease for five years or more. Frankly, progress has not been good enough and it’s why we have invested nearly £4 million in this ‘Dream Team’. These are among the finest researchers in the world and we’re really excited by the potential of their ideas in the fight against this terrible disease.”

ENDS

For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.

Notes to Editor

The Lustgarten Foundation, Bethpage, New York, which is dedicated to advancing scientific and medical research related to the diagnosis, treatment, and cure of pancreatic cancer, will contribute $6 million to support the new Dream Team. This will be the third Dream Team supported by the Foundation, bringing the total investment by The Lustgarten Foundation in SU2C's research program to $14 million.

Daniel D. Von Hoff, MD — physician-in-chief  and distinguished professor at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, Arizona, chief scientific officer at HonorHealth, and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic — will lead the team, with Ronald M. Evans, PhD, professor and director of the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, and Gerard I. Evan, PhD, professor and chair of the department of biochemistry at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, as the co-leaders.

Serving as principal investigators on the team are Christopher Heeschen, MD, PhD, lead, Centre for Stem Cells in Cancer & Ageing at the Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, U.K.; David Propper, MD, a consultant medical oncologist at Barts Cancer Institute and the London NHS Trust; and Joshua D. Rabinowitz, MD, PhD, professor of chemistry and integrative genomics at Princeton University. 

Serving as vice-chairs of the JSAC were Richard M. Marais, PhD, director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, where he also heads the Molecular Oncology Group; and David A. Tuveson, MD, PhD, director of research for The Lustgarten Foundation and director of The Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

In addition to TGen, Salk Institute, and Cambridge, institutions participating in the project are: Princeton University, Queen Mary University of London, St Bartholomew's Hospital, Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health, Mayo Scottsdale, University of Pennsylvania, Queen Mary University of London, and Princeton University.