Pancreatic Cancer Research Update

We asked Dana Farber's Dr. Brian Wolpin to share an update on his recent studies for pancreatic cancer research. Here is how the donations raised through PFP are making a difference:

    Working together with five large cancer centers, we are collecting blood and tumor specimens from patients with pancreatic cancer to identify a blood test that can detect pancreatic cancer earlier. Like a screening colonoscopy for colon cancer, we aim to find a way to discover pancreatic cancer at an earlier stage, so that the cancer can be treated early and cured.    

    In addition to our work in early detection, we have a large effort to understand the genome of pancreatic cancer, through the collection of hundreds of tissue samples from patients. The goals of this tissue collection are to study how pancreatic tumors grow, and why they respond to some treatments, but fail to respond to others. In real-time, we are performing molecular analysis of patients’ tumors and returning results to their physicians, creating a personalized treatment plan. When we biopsy a patient’s tumor, we are able to look at the tumors’ DNA and RNA; these molecules define the genetic code of the tumor that tells it to grow. We can use this information to better understand the genetic profile of these tumors, generate new hypotheses regarding mechanisms of treatment resistance and devise new strategies for cancer diagnosis and treatment.

    Finally, we are also conducting drug sensitivity screening on tumor cells implanted into a 3-D culture system, called an organoid. Cells taken from a patient’s tumor are grown in the laboratory and exposed to dozens of different drugs to find the ones that are most effective in killing that person’s tumor cells. Data that is generated from these organoids will be used to better understand why certain tumors are sensitive or resistant to particular treatments and to identify new treatment options for our patients in the clinic.  

Thank you Dr. Wolpin and your amazing team! We admire your efforts, talent and determination in helping to find a cure to pancreatic cancer!