Tim Lautenschlaeger, MD, Max Schmidt, MD, PhD, and Anita A. Turk, MD, have developed a urine test to detect circulating tumor DNA, or ctDNA, which is DNA released by cancer cells. While blood is most often used to detect ctDNA, researchers think urine would be more effective due to the larger sample volume, and it could allow for easy at-home testing. The group is collecting urine and blood samples from late-stage pancreatic cancer patients to study how well their test detects pancreatic cancer-related genetic mutations. They are then comparing the performance of their urine-based test with that of existing blood-based tests. Urine samples from early-stage pancreatic cancer patients are also being collected and compared to samples from healthy patients of similar age to determine the test’s ability to detect early-stage disease. Ultimately, they hope to create a simple pancreatic cancer screening method for those at risk of developing the disease.
Another urgent effort is to develop new treatments for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) as there are currently no FDA-approved targeted therapies for PDAC. This type of pancreatic cancer’s dominant activating mutation is on a specific gene called KRAS.
Xin Lu, PhD, Jun Wan, PhD, and Anita Turk, MD, received new technology pilot funding from the cancer center to implement and improve the clinical use of KRAS inhibitors as a single therapy. They will also explore combining KRAS with immunotherapy to treat this incurable cancer.
Pilot projects like these are funded by donors like you. These projects allow researchers to gather meaningful data to then apply for significant external funding.