Distinguished Scholar Award
The Distinguished Scholars program is a new Lustgarten Foundation initiative that will identify and fund the best minds in research today to engage in pancreatic cancer research. The grantees are selected by The Lustgarten Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board based on their historical accomplishments of breakthrough research. As a Lustgarten Foundation Distinguished Scholar, each grantee is required to:
- devote at least 75% of their total time to research.
- dedicate a major portion of their research efforts to pancreatic cancer, and commit a significant effort as Principal Investigator of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Project (PCRP).
- direct and dedicate a portion of their laboratory to the project with a reasonable number of lab personnel dedicating 100% effort to the PCRP.
Continuation of annual funding is contingent upon the achievement of predefined research milestones and approval of scientific progress reports.
More information about the 2014 Lustgarten Foundation Distinguished Scholars is included below.
Ronald M. Evans, Ph. D.
Dr. Ronald M. Evans is a Howard Hughes Investigator, March of Dimes Chair in Developmental and Molecular Biology, and a Professor and Director of the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Salk Institute. Dr. Evans has received numerous awards for his research, most notably the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 2004 and the Wolf Prize in Medicine in 2012. Dr. Evans is an authority on hormones and how they communicate signals in the body. Several of the hormone signals Dr. Evans discovered are primary targets in the treatment of breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and leukemia, as well as osteoporosis and asthma. Most recently he has been studying the use of Vitamin D in the treatment of pancreatic cancer in the laboratory. As a Lustgarten Foundation Distinguished Scholar, he will expand these studies to conduct clinical trials in pancreatic cancer patients using Vitamin D therapies.
Douglas Fearon, M.D.
An internationally known expert in the field of immunology, Dr. Doug Fearon will assume a new joint position on July 1 at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Fearon focused his studies initially on rheumatoid arthritis and is now applying that knowledge to cancer. Recently, he discovered a new drug that harnesses the immune system to break down the protective stromal barrier surrounding pancreatic cancer tumors and enables cancer-attacking T cells to penetrate it. One of his first goals as a Lustgarten Foundation Distinguished Scholar will be to conduct clinical trials to test this new drug combination in pancreatic cancer patients. Previously, Dr. Fearon was a Sheila Joan Smith Professor of Immunology in the Department of Medicine at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.
David Tuveson, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. David Tuveson, who heads the dedicated laboratory for pancreatic cancer research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, discovered that drug delivery to the tumor can be enhanced by degrading hyaluronan, a major component of the dense matrix surrounding the pancreatic tumor. Currently, there is a clinical trial underway to test if pre-treating patients with PEGPH20, the modified enzyme that degrades hyaluronan, will increase the amount of active drug delivered to the tumor cells. Additionally, he has adapted a culturing technology called “organoids” as a model for studying pancreatic cancer, which allows cells of a patient’s tumor to be grown outside of the body and in a tissue culture dish. The goal is to use a patient’s personal organoid to study its unique genetic makeup and biology, which will allow basic researchers and clinicians to test the effectiveness of different drugs on the organoid before testing them on the patient in the clinic.
Bert Vogelstein, M.D.
Dr. Bert Vogelstein is a Howard Hughes Investigator, Clayton Professor of Oncology and Pathology, and director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics and Therapeutics at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He has led the way in the use of genetics technology to better understand genes and their mutations in order to treat and detect a variety of aggressive cancers. He was first funded by The Lustgarten Foundation in 2007 to sequence the genome for pancreatic cancer, and his findings were published in the prestigious journal Science, which designated the project as among the top three 2008 "Breakthroughs of the Year." Since then, he has applied his vast expertise of genetics to early detection techniques for pancreatic cancer, which has led to the development of an early detection blood test in the laboratory that is now being tested in clinical trials with patients. The Lustgarten Foundation Distinguished Scholar grant will enable Dr. Vogelstein to continue his critical work in developing the first early detection test for pancreatic cancer.