Dana-Farber research team awarded Pancreatic Cancer Collective “New Therapies Challenge” grant

  • Up to $4 million in funding will help support three pancreatic cancer clinical trials testing DNA repair inhibitors combined with chemotherapy

The Pancreatic Cancer Collective, the strategic partnership of the Lustgarten Foundation and Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), has awarded up to $16 million to four teams of top researchers, including a team at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, as part of its “New Therapies Challenge Grants,” the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), Scientific Partner of SU2C, announced today.

The Dana-Farber team lead by Alan D. D’Andrea, MD, director of Dana-Farber’s Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers and director of the Center for DNA Damage and Repair, and James M. Cleary, MD, PhD with key collaborators Geoffrey I. Shapiro, MD, PhD, director of the Early Drug Development Center and clinical director of the Center for DNA Damage and Repair, Brian M. Wolpin, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center and the Hale Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research, and Andrew Aguirre, MD, PhD, will receive up to $4 million over a three-year term for their project:

Exploiting DNA Repair Gene Mutations in Pancreatic Cancer: The team has been seeking to evaluate DNA repair inhibitors and improve the use of PARP inhibitors, which interfere with the ability of cancerous cells to increase in number. The team’s preclinical data suggests that combining gemcitabine with inhibitors that target regulatory proteins involved in DNA repair could be an effective therapy in platinum-resistant pancreatic cancer. Based on these laboratory findings, the team is developing three pancreatic cancer clinical trials testing gemcitabine-based combinations: gemcitabine/ATR inhibitor BAY1895344; gemcitabine/CHK1 inhibitor LY2880070; and gemcitabine/WEE1 inhibitor AZD1775. The most promising combinations will be identified for potential validation in larger trials.

“Pancreatic cancer patients need better, more effective treatments, so when you see something that may have a chance to improve the lives of these patients you want to explore it more,” says Cleary. “The way to do that is through this collaborative research.”

The grant builds on a first round of funding announced in November 2018. These four teams originally received up to $1 million each to pursue preclinical work over 13 months, including several projects seeking to repurpose drugs approved for other uses for their potential to treat pancreatic cancer. These teams demonstrated the most promising preliminary results to allow them to take potential therapies into clinical trials. Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, with a five-year survival rate of about 9 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute.

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