2018 Grants Awarded


University of Chicago

Continue the support of the familial pancreatic cancer database.
Now that the database exists, Dr. Sonia Kupfer aims to use it both to advance clinical research into pancreatic cancer risk and screening methods, and to improve the services the clinic can offer its patients. Dedicated staff time for a research coordinator would allow the GI Cancer Risk Clinic to proactively contact patients in the registry and schedule their annual screenings, even as the registry itself grows through the addition of new patients. Furthermore, such a position would expand Dr. Kupfer’s ability to form new partnerships and launch new clinical trials by supporting administrative tasks related to those trials and helping patients in the registry identify and sign up for relevant trials.

Rolfe Foundation Fellow
The Rolfe Foundation Fellow will work under the guidance of Ralph Weichselbaum, MD, one of the nation’s foremost experts on radiation combination therapies and cancer metastasis. They have developed novel animal models for testing of therapy combinations on both primary and distant tumor sites. Your philanthropy will sustain this research and move us closer to phase 1 trials of such combinations in patients. 

Johns Hopkins University

Three-Dimensional Analysis of Pancreatic Precursor Lesions
(Investigator: Laura Wood, MD, PhD)
Dr. Wood will use new technology to study precursor lesions in 3D. Lesions can be more accurately measured, the spatial relationships of various tissue and cell components can be defined, and changes can be put in the appropriate multidimensional context. This study will provide insights into fundamental questions that form the basis for early detection efforts. Questions such as how many cells are in a precursor lesion; how do precursor lesion connect in 3D? Analysis using 3D will open new avenues for early detection and even cancer prevention.

Defining the Immune Microenvironment in Pancreatic Precursor Lesions and Early Invasive Adenocarcinoma. 
Investigator: Elizabeth Thompson, MD, PhD
This study seeks to determine and compare the cellular makeup of the tumor immune microenvironment and the range of immune checkpoint proteins in pancreatic precursor lesions. The research will try to understand why and how the immune system keeps precursor lesions from turning into cancer and how the body keeps these in check. If we can determine that, then we can further our understanding of how to better harness the immunity for improved patient therapies and how the immune system may signal the development of an invasive tumor.

Lustgarten Foundation

This project is being researched at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in the lab of Bert Vogelstein, MD a world renown molecular oncologist. The purpose of this research is to apply cancer genetics to improve the diagnosis, detection, and treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer.

A blood test called CancerSEEK has been developed that can detect early pancreatic cancers before they have spread at a stage when they can still be cured by surgery and chemotherapy. Pancreatic cancer is part of a panel of eight common cancers tested through this blood screening. The initial study evaluated over 1,000 patients with one of eight common cancers. The sensitivity of detection for pancreatic cancer was 70%. This means that the test can identify who has pancreatic cancer 70% of the time. The specificity of the test was 99%. Meaning, the test can identify who does NOT have pancreatic cancer 99% of the time.

Now CancerSEEK is moving into the clinical trial stage, focusing on pancreatic and ovarian cancers that have been “fast-tracked” by the FDA. This will allow CancerSEEK to get into the hands of doctors faster. It is estimated that this will be complete in two to three years. The study needs more samples to achieve higher than 70% percent sensitivity and more validity of the initial findings. Funding is needed for this stage of the research.

The Felix Project*
This project is also being studied in the lab of Bert Vogelstein MD at Johns Hopkins. The lead investigator is radiologist, Elliot Fishman, MD.
The Felix Project is a multiyear, multimillion-dollar effort to improve the early detection of pancreatic cancer through the use of sophisticated computer programs that teach themselves to read CT scans. The goal is to spot pancreatic cancers far sooner than humans alone can do, before they turn deadly. The algorithms belong to a branch of artificial intelligence (AI) known as machine learning, or deep learning.

During the first year, thousands of new CAT scans and 20,000 historical scans were “colored in” by the radiology department and computer programs were trained to distinguish the pancreas from the other organs of the abdomen. During the second year, the programs were trained to look for any slight abnormality within the pancreas (a minuscule enlargement, a minor change in surface texture, a bump where no bump should be) to spot cancers far sooner than humans alone can do. A former employee of Google is working with the lab on this AI project. Funding is needed to do another set of CT scans for validation of initial results.

*The Felix Project was named from Harry Potter, where the drinker of a magical potion is lucky for a time, during which everything they attempt will be successful.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Department of Pathology

5-year pledge to be used, along with contributions from other donors, to establish the Ralph H. Hruban, MD, Professorship in Pancreatic Cancer Research at Johns Hopkins University.

Northshore Kellogg Cancer Center - Highland Park

Expansion of nutrition services, massage, and acupuncture treatment for pancreatic cancer patients.

Cancer Wellness Center - Northbrook

For continued support of their pancreatic cancer discussion group.

Wellness House - Hinsdale

For continued support of their pancreatic cancer discussion group.