The Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research was formed in 2008 as an interdisciplinary, shared-resource response (see figure 1) to the gaps in our understanding of this disease with 45 investigators (basic scientists, surgeons, and physicians) from the Indiana University School of Medicine and Purdue University that have the expertise to successfully study this currently incurable disease. Initially, several retreats were held so that researchers could present their research interests, laboratory data and new directions of investigation, thus existing capabilities, infrastructure, and potential areas of collaboration could be identified and documented.
This has led to the current infrastructure for the group, which provides multiple areas of support for individual projects. Over the past few years, the group has grown to include 60 members, including investigators from Notre Dame (see figure 2). Members meet monthly to discuss ongoing research projects, proposed new research ideas, pancreatic cancer clinical trials as well as to discuss the potential of translational, basic and pre-clinical discoveries into clinical trials. The goal of these meetings is to encourage and establish collaborations among members and identify potential projects to be used for multi-investigators grants (multi-PI R01, PPG, SPORE).
The Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research has been awarded three significant internal pilot grants to assist with fostering collaboration and generating preliminary data. In late 2010, the team was awarded the IU/PU Jordan-Rieger Grant, which supported the early development of orthotopic mouse models to be used by members. Subsequently, the team was awarded both an IUPUI Signature Center Initiative Grant and an iCTSI Program Project Planning (P3) Grant in 2011.
The Signature Center funds have been used to support further development and characterization of the orthotopic mouse models; the generation of genetically engineered mouse models, including microarray data on samples collected at various times; generation of preliminary data on microRNA in pancreatic cancer as well as data on cachexia in pancreatic cancer; and support of correlatives for a clinical trial to collect tissue samples from patients before and after treatment. These samples will then be available to all members of the group for various research projects and will be used to build up the tissue repository, which is critical for a successful SPORE submission.
The funds from the signature center grant are being utilized for both infrastructure/shared resources though the sharing of data and models as well as initial pilot funding of projects. The iCTSI P3 pilot funding has been utilized for five collaborative pilot projects initially identified as possible SPORE projects. Taken together, these three internal pilot grants have generated preliminary data which has led to several collaborative grants and publications among members of the center. Going forward, the team anticipates submitting a SPORE application in early 2015.