New study to shed light on microbiome’s relationship to pancreatic cancer

A $2.4 million, five-year grant renewal of the Consortium for the Study of Chronic Pancreatitis, Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer from the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases will enable researchers at Baylor College of Medicine to study the role the microbiome could play in diagnosing these diseases at an earlier stage.

The Consortium includes 11 sites across the country that are focusing on several large cohort studies. One of these studies tracks individuals over the age of 50 with new onset diabetes, a patient population with an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Researchers in the Consortium hope to use data and biosamples from the cohort studies to help diagnose pancreatic cancer at an earlier stage, allowing patients to have a better prognosis compared to late-stage diagnosis.

Research has shown that the microbiome can play a role in inflammatory diseases, which are known to be precursors of cancer. Baylor researchers will use the data collected from the cohort studies to look at the microbiome of individuals with chronic pancreatitis, diabetes and pancreatic cancer, which could lead to the discovery of biomarkers for early detection, progression of the disease and new treatments.

“My entire career has been focused on pancreatic cancer but I think this work will be the most significant,” said Dr. William Fisher, principal investigator of the study and professor and vice chair for clinical affairs in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor. “I am very excited and feel privileged to have the opportunity to contribute to this Consortium of leaders in the field because it is only through large studies and this type of collaboration that truly significant advances can be accomplished.”

Fisher also is a member of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine.

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