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A new drug target to prevent pancreatic cancer spread and growth

Recipient: Dr Angus Cameron

Host Institution: Barts Cancer Institute (BCI) at Queen Mary, University of London

Title: A new drug target to prevent pancreatic cancer spread and growth

Type of award: 2015 Research Innovation Fund

Funding: £71,460

Pancreatic cancer is caused when cells start growing in an uncontrollable way. At first the cells will remain in the pancreatic cancer tumour, but they can later spread into surrounding tissue, and this is called invasion. Once pancreatic cancer has spread, it is incredibly difficult to treat and we desperately need to develop and optimise new treatments that prevent this from happening. In order for pancreatic cancer cells to invade other organs they must get help from other normal cells, called pancreatic stellate cells. If you are able to block the way that stellate cells contribute to invasion, you would stop the spread of the pancreatic cancer cells and the spread of the tumour.

Dr Cameron’s team have identified a novel protein in pancreatic stellate cells, which is central to help pancreatic cancer cells grow and invade. By targeting a protein in the pancreatic stellate cells, rather than the cancer cells, they hope to develop an alternative strategy to supress tumour spread.

The researchers now need to confirm that this approach will work in human pancreatic cancer models, so that they can prove that their identified protein is an eligible candidate for the development of new drugs to fight pancreatic cancer.

If this project confirms the identification of a new drug target in stellate cells to block pancreatic cancer growth and spread, the researchers could go on to develop new treatments that are so desperately needed to improve outcomes for people with pancreatic cancer.