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Characterising the molecular network to find new treatment strategies against pancreatic cancer

Recipient: Dr Maria Hatziapostolou

Host Institution: Nottingham Trent University

Title: Characterising the molecular network to find new treatment strategies against pancreatic cancer  

Type of award: 2016 Research Innovation Fund

Funding: £74,252

Pancreatic cancer is a complex and hard to treat cancer. Currently there are no suitable markers or simple tests to support screening and early diagnosis of the disease, and very few effective drug treatments exist. Most patients, about 80 or 90%, are diagnosed when the disease is too advanced for surgery – the only potentially curative treatment for pancreatic cancer.

We still do not know enough about pancreatic cancer progression and resistance to therapy to understand why the disease does not respond to cancer drugs that are available – or to support the development of new cancer drugs or treatment approaches. There is therefore a desperate need for more research into the fundamental biology of pancreatic cancer, to understand more about its strengths and weaknesses in order to find new ways to fight it.

Using cutting edge techniques, Dr Hatziapostolou has discovered a specific gene that plays significant role in the regulation of pancreatic cancer growth, resistance to treatment and invasion to other organs. In this project, she plans to characterise the entire molecular network that is regulated by this gene – how this network regulates different cancer cellular properties and impacts the development and behaviour of pancreatic cancer.

By doing this, Dr Hatziapostolou hopes to find new insights that will guide the future design and development of new cancer drugs. The difference this research could make: Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Current treatment options for this disease are limited, and most patients diagnosed with this disease have poor prognosis. New approaches to pancreatic cancer treatment are therefore urgently needed. This is an extremely promising area of investigation and if the researchers are successful could discover new treatment options to improve outcomes for people with pancreatic cancer.