Please note that some translations using Google Translate may not be accurately represented and downloaded documents cannot be translated. Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund assume no liability for inaccuracies that may result from using this third-party tool, which is for website translation.
Please note that some translations using Google Translate may not be accurately represented and downloaded documents cannot be translated. Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund assume no liability for inaccuracies that may result from using this third-party tool, which is for website translation.

Lustgarten grant accelerates therapeutic discovery in pancreatic cancer

Lustgarten Foundation Logo

Summer 2024
By Caroline de Lacvivier
Photography by Sam Ogden

The Lustgarten Foundation is the largest private funder of pancreatic cancer research in the world, funding preeminent pancreatic cancer researchers, driving the pursuit of bold and innovative science toward earlier detection and better treatments, and transforming pancreatic cancer into a curable disease. A hallmark of the foundation’s unique research strategy, the LABS (Lustgarten Advancing Breakthrough Science) Program, provides long-term funding to promote the development of innovative ideas and speed the pace of discovery by incentivizing interdisciplinary team science.

Through the LABS program, the Lustgarten Foundation awarded a grant of nearly $5 million to Brian Wolpin, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center and the Robert T. and Judith B. Hale Chair in Pancreatic Cancer at Dana-Farber, and his team of physician-scientists. With this generous funding, they are working to uncover new ways of detecting the disease in its earliest stages—when it can be most easily treated—and developing more effective therapies for patients whose cancer has progressed.

“The Wolpin-led lab at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is a critical hub for translational research.”

Linda Tantawi, Lustgarten Foundation

“We are exceptionally grateful for the foundation’s tremendous support, which is helping us make progress against this devastating disease,” said Wolpin. “We owe many of the major strides in pancreatic cancer research to the foundation’s influential advocacy and research funding, and we are beyond grateful for their enduring leadership.”

Brian Wolpin, MD, MPH

Together with Andrew Aguirre, MD, PhD, and Jonathan Nowak, MD, PhD, Wolpin is leveraging this grant to propel three projects. The first focuses on developing novel therapeutic approaches by exploring how pancreatic tumor cells adapt following treatment by chemotherapy or KRAS inhibition, a precision therapy that is currently in clinical trials for patients with pancreatic cancer. The team is now conducting in-depth analyses of tumor cell behavior to determine how these complex biological mechanisms might be targeted to inform the development of new therapies.

The second is examining the heterogeneous cellular makeup within pancreatic cancer tumors and their surrounding microenvironments, focusing on how these characteristics vary between primary and metastatic tumor sites. The team is using advanced profiling technologies to spatially map these differences, which promise to inform future therapeutic strategies that account for a tumor’s specific context.

Finally, Wolpin and his team are exploring new approaches to detect pancreatic cancer earlier. Pancreatic cancer is typically discovered at an advanced stage, when treatment options are generally not curative, but recent studies have shown that metabolic changes could signal early cancer formation. To test this hypothesis, Wolpin and his team are leading studies in patients and laboratory models to formulate a comprehensive approach to early detection, using clinical data, blood markers, and radiologic tests.

“The Wolpin-led lab at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is a critical hub for translational research,” said Linda Tantawi, CEO of the Lustgarten Foundation. “We are proud to support Dr. Wolpin and his team as they push for innovation in pancreatic cancer research, led by a patient-centered mission and science-driven strategy.”

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