Spring 2011: Foundation Approves $7 Million in Research Funding
Brings Total Commitment to $38 Million
Since its inception, The Lustgarten Foundation has been dedicated to supporting research of the highest quality. Today, large-scale, focused research awards from the Foundation are helping to realize promising gains in such areas as early detection and targeted therapies. In 2010 the Foundation continued its commitment to promote the next generation of research with the approval of $7 million for new projects, bringing its total investment to date in pancreatic cancer research to $38 million.
The new projects, which range from basic science at the bench to human trials in the clinic, highlight expanding opportunities that have resulted from many valuable insights and discoveries of the past decade. For example, with the leadership efforts of PCRC member, Dr. David Kelsen at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, The Lustgarten Foundation entered into a formal partnership with NCI's Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program (CTEP). CTEP is the world’s largest publicly funded oncology clinical trials organization. As part of the partnership, The Lustgarten Foundation will have an opportunity to consider CTEP-supported trials for possible funding of correlative studies to be conducted alongside the trials.
One of the new projects will support an international team effort led by Dr. Eileen O’Reilly at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, to conduct a correlative study with a phase 2 clinical trial with a drug effective in another cancer. Correlative studies help researchers gain important insights into why an investigational treatment performed as it did, including whether moderate adjustments to the treatment regimen could potentially yield significant results. Unfortunately, many times correlative studies are not conducted due to a lack of funding, and the opportunity to gain critical insights about the investigational treatment is lost.
Two additional projects will focus on therapy in the area of K-ras inhibition. K-ras is the gene most commonly mutated in pancreatic cancer, and is known to have a role in the development of the disease. In fact, there is scientific evidence to show that “shutting off” K-ras can stop and even reverse tumor growth in mice. Nevertheless, past efforts to inhibit K-ras have been unsuccessful. One of the new projects will support Dr. Stephen Fesik at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in designing a compound that is specifically fitted to mutated K-ras in pancreas cancer. Another project by Dr. Frank McCormick at University of California at San Francisco will focus on an exciting new technology that uses tiny ‘nanoparticles’ as a means to target pancreatic cancer cells, offering a step toward more effective drug delivery. Additional projects will focus on areas ranging from early detection, to the development and testing of novel imaging technologies, to identifying new drug targets, and more. Together, these projects and initiatives are laying a foundation for earlier diagnosis, better treatments, and ultimately, a cure.