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Investigating potential new combination therapies for the treatment of pancreatic cancer

Future Leader: Siang Boon Koh

Supervisor: Professor Duncan Jodrell

Host Institution: University of Cambridge

Title: Investigating potential new combination therapies for the treatment of pancreatic cancer

Type of award: 2015 Future Leaders Fund

Funding: £119,369

Our bodies have evolved a mechanism that can detect and repair DNA damage to our cells, ensuring that faulty DNA isn’t passed on when the cell divides. Cancer cells use this mechanism to repair themselves when they come under attack - for example, after chemotherapy treatment targets the DNA of rapidly dividing cells, the DNA damage response mechanism enables the cancer cells to become resistant to treatment.

Previous research has shown that cancer cells do this by activating a molecule called CHK1, which delays cell division and allows cancer cells to mend their damaged DNA. Siang Boon Koh will be investigating interactions between the established chemotherapy treatment, gemcitabine and experimental CHK1 inhibitors. He hopes this willl block the cell's resistance to chemotherapy enhancing the cancer-killing effects. Siang Boon Koh will also look at whether any other experimental agents which inhibit the DNA damage response can be used in the same way to enhance the effects of chemotherapy. Identifying ways to improve the effectiveness of current treatments would see the survival outcomes improve for people with pancreatic cancer where treatment might not have worked previously.