The UCSF Pancreas Cancer Research Program has a team of researchers, including doctors and scientists, specializing in endocrinology, epidemiology, gastroenterology, medical oncology, radiation oncology and surgical oncology. Our investigators are interested in identifying better treatments, those at high risk for the disease and methods for screening and prevention.
Major scientific goals include:
- Understand the genetic and environmental factors that influence risk for pancreatic adenocarcinoma and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor development.
- Understand the genetic and biologic events occurring early in pancreas cancer, with a goal of developing better diagnostic tools.
- Develop new paradigms and model systems to evaluate the role of specific genes in the initiation and progression of these cancers.
- Understand the factors that promote invasion of pancreas cancer, with a special emphasis on the supportive structure and environment of pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells and the biology of invasion and metastasis.
- Understand the basis of drug resistance and sensitivity in pancreatic adenocarcinoma and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.
- Use 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.
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 pancreas cancer cells.
- Ability to derive primary cultures of primary human ductal epithelial cells (PDECs) for the analysis of early genetic and cell biological alterations in the cells that are believed to be the progenitors of pancreas cancer.
Epidemiology and Population Studies
The program conducts large population-based, case-control studies of pancreatic cancer. Its researchers in Epidemilogy and Biostatistics lead laboratory and clinic-based studies of the molecular epidemiology of pancreatic cancer.
The program's clinical research component includes studies in both pancreatic adenocarcinoma and neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas, such as:
- Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma — Dr. Andrew Ko and Dr. Margaret Tempero are currently leading studies investigating new therapeutics for pancreatic adenocarcinoma. They also have begun building a novel program to find out how genetic characteristics in pancreas tumors are linked to responsiveness to different treatment regimens.
- Gastrointestinal Neuroendocrine Tumors (NET) — Drs. Emily Bergsland and Alan Venook have developed a clinical program focused on patients with gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumors, which is the second most common tumor in the pancreas.
- Biomarkers — Our researchers are involved in developing assessment tools that can evaluate drug sensitivity and effectiveness in patients.
- Epidemiology and Population — Dr. Paige Bracci, a professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF, is heading data analyses of large population-based, case-control studies of pancreatic cancer. She also leads laboratory and clinic-based studies of the molecular epidemiology of pancreatic cancer through the UCSF Gastrointestinal Cancer Clinic.
Pancreas Tissue Bank — Our researchers have developed a tissue bank of pancreatic adenocarcinomas and neuroendocrine tumors, collected through the UCSF Cancer Center Tissue Bank facility. This repository of tissue enables our investigators to begin genetic tests that help determine drug responsiveness.
Information from these studies help us design better drug treatment strategies, tailored to the specific genetic and biochemical features of the disease. These studies are proceeding in conjunction with efforts to identify new markers, which may permit earlier diagnosis in at-risk populations and allow earlier and more effective intervention.
- Informatics — With the assistance of Informatics services at the UCSF Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center, a relational database has been implemented to house all clinical outcome data and available molecular data from tissue specimens and analyses. This database is an important resource to identify new targets for therapy and help guide therapeutic decision-making in the future.