We are collaborating with Stand Up To Cancer on five research teams designed to tackle the disease using novel approaches, all with projects involving clinical trials during the three-year funding cycle. The convergence translational research team, which was recently profiled in The Wall Street Journal, brings together experts from different fields to combine their skills and knowledge to help solve medical problems and find insights into treating the disease. Led by the University of Pennsylvania’s Jeffrey A. Drebin, M.D., Ph.D., the team will conduct a clinical trial of Gemcitabine and Abraxane, which are standard of care treatments for pancreatic cancer patients, and synthetic vitamin D, followed by treatment with the cancer immunotherapy drug nivolumab that is currently FDA-approved for certain types of melanoma and lung cancer.
The work on vitamin D is based on recent research conducted by the Salk Institute for Biological Studies’ Ronald Evans, Ph.D., which found that in mice, a synthetic derivative of vitamin D could potentially delay pancreatic cancer tumor growth when combined with chemotherapy, resulting in a 57 percent increase in lifespan compared to chemotherapy alone. Dr. Evans is now conducting research to determine if late stage pancreatic cancer patients’ tumors have a vitamin D receptor in their metastases as well, which would make them eligible for treatment with synthetic vitamin D as part of their therapy.
*Pembrolizumab is not yet FDA approved for the treatment of MSI pancreatic cancer.