The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center

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The Joseph C. Monastra Fund

We are a proud supporter of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and their talented group of scientists. Donations to date, have gone directly to Dr. Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue who is leading a team of scientists whose focus is on the early detection and prevention of pancreatic cancer. The research is focused on gene analysis, and the development of clinical trials.

The researchers at Johns Hopkins have used a technique called “gene expression profiling” to study the genes of pancreas cancers. To date, they have already identified over 100 genes that are specifically “turned on” in the pancreas where a cancer is present. While this is a significant advance in pancreatic cancer research, each one of these genes needs to go through a validation process consisting of a series of experiments to prove that the cancer cells have turned on these genes and not other normal cells within the pancreas. Those genes that are validated as specifically turned on in pancreas cancers are the most promising for the development of vaccines and drugs that will eventually move into clinical trials for patients.

Using this approach, Dr. Iacobuzio-Donahue has identified a specific gene as a potential target for treating pancreas cancer. Her research has so far proven that 99% of pancreas cancer cells do turn on this particular gene. Following this promising breakthrough, Dr. Iacobuzio and her collaborators have begun the work to create a designer drug that will specifically act against pancreas cancer cells that activate the gene. Once this designer drug is synthesized, the study phase will commence to prove that the drug can kill the cancer cells. The study phase will use actual pancreas cancer cells growing in culture or as xenografted tumors (human pancreas cancers growing in laboratory mice). The preliminary data generated from these studies will form the basis for clinical trials in patients battling pancreatic cancer. The timeline for this research is no less than 5 years.

The Joseph C. Monastra Fund has directly supported several publications and the salary of current fellow Baojin Fu, M.D.