As one of the world's largest and most experienced comprehensive cancer centers, MD Anderson’s research experts are leading the effort to better treat pancreatic cancer, as well as design more sensitive screening procedures to detect this disease at earlier stages. Our patients benefit from the most advanced pancreatic cancer research, translated into clinical practice as quickly as possible.
Due to the location of the pancreas, detection of tumors at a time early enough to be eligible for surgical removal is rare. Our researchers are working to change that by creating a blood test that signals the presence of cancer. In collaboration with the McCombs Institute for Early Detection of Cancer and its Director Sam Hanash, M.D., Ph.D., we're focusing on subsets of patients that are at high risk for pancreatic cancer, including those with pancreatic “cysts” or new-onset diabetes above the age of 50 years. When developed, this highly sensitive and specific test will detect abnormal molecules that are shed from tumors before the appearance of pancreatic cancer symptoms.
To complement this strategy, we’re also investigating new imaging techniques to visualize pre-cancerous pancreatic lesions called PanINs (pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasias) to detect early precursors of pancreatic cancer. The long term goal of these efforts is to improve the survival of patients by intercepting pancreatic cancer before it becomes deadly.
We’re also investigating new treatment options for patients with pancreatic cancer. Through preclinical studies, our researchers have identified a tumor-promoting pathway that, when inhibited, reduces the rate of resistance to validated targeted therapy drugs. In collaboration with the Institute for Applied Cancer Science Moon Shot™ platform, we’re developing a drug targeting this pathway that will soon enter Phase I trials. We’re also exploring ways to use new and personalized immunotherapy approaches to enhance a patient’s own immune cells to better fight their pancreatic cancer.
Our commitment to pancreatic cancer research is echoed through:
The Pancreatic Cancer Moon Shot™, which is aimed at rapidly improving pancreatic cancer patient outcomes by collaborating with internal experts and institutes to develop new treatment options and detection technologies.
Through this program and other cutting edge pancreatic cancer research, MD Anderson has:
- Initiated the first pancreatic cancer high-risk clinic, where family members and those at higher risk for pancreatic cancer (such as adults with new onset diabetes) can be screened and advised.
- Pioneered the advance of using chemotherapy before surgery (so-called “neoadjuvant therapy”) to enhance the effectiveness of pancreatic tumor resection. Patients who complete their neoadjuvant therapy and successfully undergo surgery have, on average, significantly longer survival than those who receive upfront surgery.
- Developed a long-term, personalized program to monitor pancreatic cancer patients using serial blood draws (“liquid biopsies”). This program allows us to map their tumor’s response to therapies and predict recurrent disease before it appears
Potential Druggable Target Identified
A gene involved in a number of genetic processes was identified as a vulnerability in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC).
Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer
Including two additional signatures associated with pancreatic cancer increases the predictive ability of the current biomarker panel to detect early stage disease.
Potential New Therapeutic Approach
Researchers identify "collateral lethality" as a vulnerability in pancreatic cancers that can be targeted with drugs.
Vulnerability of Aggressive Cancer Cells
Preclinical findings show how pancreatic tumors exploit cellular processes to change into resistant type.
Accelerating Pancreatic Cancer Research
Zayed Building opens doors to state-of-the-art personalized cancer research, including the Ahmed Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research.
New Culprit in Pancreatic Cancer
A rapid screening technique uncovers how tumors defend themselves from DNA damage.