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Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research earns IUPUI Signature Center designation



INDIANAPOLIS — Accomplishments in the first three years of their collaboration to fight pancreatic cancer have earned the scientists at the Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research designation as an IUPUI Signature Center.

Researchers predict that the disease, which takes 40,000 lives in the U.S. each year, will be the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. within 15 years.

In a multi-approach, multi-university effort headquartered at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus, about 50 research scientists have geared up to fight the deadly malignancy.

The Signature Center designation from the IUPUI Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research also recognizes the center’s potential to sustain efforts the researchers hope will lead to increased survival rates and better quality of life among pancreatic cancer patients.

“This is a well-deserved recognition of a center that is making significant impact on the understanding and treatment of pancreatic cancer, and I am delighted that it is attracting national and international recognition for its work,” said Kody Varahramyan, IUPUI vice chancellor for research.

The Pancreatic Cancer Signature Center is composed of multiple interdisciplinary partnerships among the team of basic, translational and clinical researchers working at sites on the IU Bloomington, Purdue University, Notre Dame University and IUPUI campuses.

The center’s researchers are engaged across the continuum of disease research from the biological/molecular investigation of pancreatic tumor development in the laboratory stage, to pre-clinical trials with mouse models, to clinical trials pursing improved therapies for pancreatic cancer patients

“Our center combines the strengths of senior investigators working on basic cancer mechanisms and potential therapeutic interventions, with the strengths of mid-level and junior faculty using novel technologies and collaborating with the senior investigators to further our overall understanding of pancreatic cancer genesis, progression, tumor microenvironment and metastasis, and coordinating these advances to devise novel diagnostic biomarkers and novel combinatorial therapeutic approaches,” said Dr. Murray Korc, director of the Pancreatic Cancer Signature Center, a researcher at the IU Simon Cancer Center and the Myles Brand Professor of Cancer Research at IU School of Medicine.

Under the IUPUI Signature Centers Initiative Grant Program sponsored by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, the cancer research center received $300,000 in seed money in 2011, which has paid for the infrastructure to support the multi-site collaborations and the mentoring program that pairs younger researchers with veteran scientists.

“The origination award has allowed us to forge collaborations,” Korc said. “This Signature Center designation will encourage those collaborations to continue to flourish. We are working simultaneously on securing more grants to make us more sustainable in the long run.”

Researchers at the Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research leveraged the seed money from the origination award into an additional $9.2 million in research grants during the past three years, according to Korc.

“Receiving the official Signature Center designation underscores our potential to continue team science in a sustainable and high-impact manner and helps us honor the memory of former IU President Myles Brand and philanthropist Mel Simon, both of whom succumbed to pancreatic cancer on Sept. 16, 2009,” Korc said.

Korc also thanked Dr. Pat Loehrer, the director of the IU Simon Cancer Center, and Mark Kelley, associate director of the Pancreatic Cancer Signature Center, for coordinating the groundwork that led to the successful creation of the Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research.