Pancreatic cancer research in vaccines, immune-based therapies and KRAS inhibition funded by The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

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The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), a leading non-profit in the fight against pancreatic cancer, has awarded Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers William Freed-Pastor, MD, PhD, and Julien Dilly, MS, research grants of $250,000 and $150,000, respectively over a 2-year period, to support their crucial work in the field of pancreatic cancer research.

As the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States and with a five-year survival rate of just 12%, pancreatic cancer demands urgent action to save lives. There is currently no standard early detection test for pancreatic cancer and few effective treatments are available, making the ongoing funding of innovative research crucial to solving this challenging disease.

Freed-Pastor is a medical oncologist and physician-scientist at Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He specializes in gastrointestinal oncology and immuno-oncology and is an investigator within the Division of Molecular and Cellular Oncology and the Hale Family Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research. His laboratory focuses on developing improved pre-clinical models for pancreatic cancer, with a particular emphasis on understanding immune escape and tumor-immune crosstalk. The PanCAN Career Development Award will be used to accelerate efforts by Freed-Pastor and his team to discover new and clinically relevant pieces of proteins in pancreatic cancer cells that can be leveraged for cancer vaccines and immune-based therapies.

Dilly is a PhD student at Harvard University conducting his graduate work in the laboratory of Andrew Aguirre, MD, PhD, at Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute. His research aims to understand mechanisms of response and resistance to KRAS inhibition in pancreatic cancer by leveraging multi-omics approaches on patient specimens and preclinical models. With the funds awarded, Julien and colleagues will explore and characterize the features of response and resistance to KRAS inhibitors in pancreatic cancer to improve understanding of the tumor and its microenvironment. The team will look for biological clues and combination therapy strategies to guide utilization of KRAS inhibitors in a clinical setting.

These prestigious grants are awarded to medical professionals who have demonstrated innovative approaches to researching and developing treatments to fight pancreatic cancer and improve patient outcomes. Freed-Pastor and Dilly join fellow Dana-Farber researchers Andrew Aguirre, MD, PhD, and Sapna Syngal, MD, MPH, who were also awarded grants in previous years.

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Pancreatic Cancer
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Julien Dilly, MS (pictured left), and William Freed-Pastor, MD, PhD (pictured right), recipients of PanCAN research grants

Julien Dilly, MS (pictured left), and William Freed-Pastor, MD, PhD (pictured right), recipients of PanCAN research grants