Pancreatic Cancer Center Research

Diane Simeone collaborates with Sunitha Nagrath

Pancreatic cancer research at the University of Michigan, led by a multidisciplinary team of scientists and clinicians, holds the promise to significantly change the dismal statistics associated with this disease by revolutionizing pancreatic cancer care. The team is attacking the disease on a variety of fronts.

Major scientific goals include:

  • Understanding the genetic and biologic events occurring early in pancreatic cancer, with a goal of developing better diagnostic tools.
  • Developing new paradigms and model systems to evaluate the role of specific genes in the initiation and progression of these cancers.
  • Understanding the factors that promote invasion of pancreatic cancer, with a special emphasis on the environment of pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells and the biology of invasion and metastasis.
  • Detection of Circulating Tumor cells as a potential new diagnostic tool.
  • Detection of new biological markers as an improved diagnostic tool.
  • Understanding the basis of drug resistance and sensitivity in pancreatic adenocarcinoma and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.
  • Use of model systems to evaluate new targeted therapies, either alone or in combination with conventional drugs in the treatment of pancreatic adenocarcinoma and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.
Image of solution being poured from beaker

Basic Science

The program has a collaborative basic science component, focusing on pancreatic adenocarcinoma and neuroendocrine tumors.

Major strengths of our basic science component include:

  • State-of-the-art mouse models of pancreatic cancers that are being used to explore basic mechanisms of tumor transformation and as platforms for pre-clinical evaluation of novel therapeutics to treat cancer.
  • Analysis of signal transduction pathways that contribute to the abnormal proliferation, invasion and migration of pancreatic cancer cells.
  • Ability to derive primary cultures of primary human ductal epithelial cells (PDECs) as well as surrounding tumor micro-environmental cells for the analysis of early genetic and cell biological alterations in the cells that are believed to be the progenitors of pancreatic cancer.

Clinical Research

The program's clinical research component includes studies in both pancreatic adenocarcinoma and neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas.

Information from these studies helps design improved drug treatment strategies, tailored to the specific genetic and biochemical features of the disease. These studies work in conjunction with efforts to identify new markers, which may permit earlier diagnosis in at-risk populations and allow earlier and more effective intervention.

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