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New cells models for the development of personalised treatments for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (PanNETs)

Recipient: Dr Paul Newey

Host Institution: University of Dundee

Title: New cells models for the development of personalised treatments for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (PanNETs)

Type of award: 2015 Research Innovation Fund

Funding: £74,158 (funded by Pancreatic Cancer UK and Pancreatic Cancer Scotland).

Curative surgery is the optimum treatment for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (PanNETs), although this approach is not feasible for the high proportion of patients who present with advanced disease. For these patients, there is an absence of effective medical treatments. Additionally, current treatment strategies are not based on molecular or genetic features of PanNETs, highlighting an absence of personalised approaches for each individual patient.

Significant advances in disease outcome will require combination therapies based on patient and tumour-specific features. A current barrier to the development of such therapies is the absence of accurate cell models that reflect how PanNETs develop. These models are desperately needed for researchers to comprehensively investigate the nature and features of PanNETs in order to discover new treatments that will improve patient outcomes.
During this project, Dr Newey aims to use highly innovative ‘genome-editing’ techniques to generate pancreatic endocrine cells that have gene mutations that are frequently seen in PanNETs. These cells will provide valuable insight into the molecular mechanisms involved in the development and progression of these tumours, thus allowing a platform for the future development and evaluation of new treatments.

This is an exciting new area of investigation, which will not only lead to new knowledge about the mechanisms by which PanNETs develop and operate (and thus lead to new, promising avenues for pancreatic cancer research), but also in the future would allow the investigators to develop and test new therapies to try and improve the outcome for people with pancreatic cancer.