Grants Awarded

The Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation was proud to award the following grants in 2019:

Johns Hopkins Medical Institution

Investigation of transcriptomic differences between intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm and normal duct organoids
(Investigators: Laura Wood, MD, PhD and Nicholas Roberts, Vet.M.B., PhD)

This research study aims to validate the differential expression of genes in an independent cohort of IPMN (intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms) samples (156 patients) and to characterize the candidate genes in vitro (test done in test tube or dish) and in vivo (test done on a living organism. This study will provide a crucial next step that may play a key role in pancreatic tumorigenesis and identify critical biomarkers for early detection.

Identifying these precursor lesions before they become incurable invasive cancer is a key to early detection. Hopkins believes there is a significant gap in this research and the reason is the lack of model systems for pancreatic cancer precursor lesions. The Rolfe Foundation previously funded a living bio-bank of human pancreatic organiods (3-dimensional culture system) for precursor lesions.

(Investigators: Bert Vogelstein, Johns Hopkins Dedicated Lab)

A multi-analyte blood test that can detect the presence of pancreatic cancer as part of a panel of eight common cancers.  A prospective study in healthy individuals is underway to better understand its performance and how to implement its findings in patient care. Thrive Earlier Detection Corporation was recently founded to further advance and commercialize CancerSEEK.

Intercepting Pancreatic Cancer in High Risk Cohorts
(Investigators: Anirban Maitra, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Michael Goggins, Johns Hopkins, and Scott Lippman, UC San Diego)

Around 10% of pancreatic cancer patients carry an inherited change (mutation) in a gene, which can increase the risk of certain cancers.  However, family members of patients often are not aware that certain genetic mutations can be passed down, which is why having information about genetic risk is so important because there are options for early detection. The GENERATE (GENetic Education, Risk Assessment, and TEsting) Study is for people who have a close relative with pancreatic cancer that was caused by a gene mutation.  The goal of the study is to improve genetic testing and cancer prevention in family members of pancreatic cancer patients with identified mutations. They also seek to develop a first-in-human prevention vaccine.

University of Chicago

Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer - Examining the Epigentics
(Investigator: Tong-Chuan He, MD, PhD)

Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic codes. Basically it’s the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes on and off. Epigenetics affects how cells read genes and whether cells should produce relevant proteins; it determines cell specialization (skin cells, blood cells, etc.) This is a new area of science.

Dr. Chuan He is leading a study to advance our knowledge of epigenetic mechanisms in pancreatic cancer. He has developed the first method of mapping 5-hmC tags (nucleotides in DNA), in all four DNA bases, across the entire genome. His method is called TET-assisted bisulfite sequencing (TAB-Seq.) and studies DNA methylation which is an epigenetic mechanism that occurs by adding a methyl group to DNA, thereby modifying the function of the genes and affecting gene expression. Pancreatic cancer has complex pathologies that involve genetic and epigenetic factors., which likely could become effective biomarkers.

The primary goal of this research project is to evaluate 5-hmC as a novel epigenetic biomarker for pancreatic cancer, promising a minimally invasive liquid biopsy. Dr. He will use University of Chicago patients for the development of 5-hmC biomarkers for detecting pancreatic cancer

NorthShore University Health System (Research Institute)

Novel genomic tests for identifying high-risk subjects to develop personalized pancreatic cancer screening strategy
(Investigators: Jianfeng Xu, DrPH and Mark Talamonti, MD)
NorthShore’s researchers have developed a Genetic Risk Score (GRS) tool to measure the effect of multiple single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to understand and quantify the disease risk for an individual. Nucleotide polymorphisms are genomic sequence comparisons between individuals. They propose to test the hypotheses that pancreatic cancer-related high penetrance genes (individuals carrying a particular genetic variant-HPG) and GRS can supplement the current family history-based standard of care to identify a greater number of high-risk subjects in the general population. They believe this can be tested in Year 1.

Significant limitations exist in the current approach of defining high-risk individuals for pancreatic cancer.  Only about 5-10% of pancreatic cancers are considered to be familial. Multiple high penetrance mutations and SNPs are known contributors to pancreatic cancer. These genetic markers can be effectively identified and used to determine risk for developing pancreatic cancer. They hypothesize that pancreatic cancer patients have a significantly higher frequency of inherited pathogenic mutations in 14 implicated pancreatic cancer HPGs and significantly higher GRS than the general population.

They believe that developing and implementing a strategy whereby GRS data is assessed in conjunction with testing for mutations in risk-associated HPGs for pancreatic cancer, in addition to family history, is the most feasible way to identify a more substantial number of individuals who are at risk for developing pancreatic cancer.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Department of Pathology

Five-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.

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.