The opening of these Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Laboratories will usher in a new era of research progress and represents an initial $10 million investment. These laboratories position the Foundation to be the only non-profit in the country to have three laboratories devoted to pancreatic cancer research.
“The addition of these two laboratories, along with our dedicated laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, will help us bring together the best science and research minds to foster and advance the goals of finding a cure for pancreatic cancer,” said David Tuveson, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Scientist and Director of the Lustgarten Foundation Dedicated Research Laboratory, and Director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Cancer Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
United in the shared goal of improving patient outcomes, the laboratories will increase collaboration between world-renowned pancreatic cancer researchers and explore new, promising avenues for understanding and treating this disease from the bench to the bedside. At the time the Lustgarten Foundation was established in 1998, pancreatic cancer was indeed an “orphan” disease, with fewer than 15 researchers studying pancreatic cancer nationally. Twenty years later, and with the additions of these dedicated laboratories, thousands of researchers are now focused on pancreatic cancer.
At Dana-Farber, under the leadership of Brian Wolpin, M.D., MPH, Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center, Director of the Hale Family Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research, and the Robert T. & Judith B. Hale Chair in Pancreatic Cancer, the Dana-Farber-Lustgarten Laboratory will be a critical hub for advancing pancreatic cancer translational research, initiating scientifically-driven clinical trials, and identifying new approaches to early pancreatic cancer detection. This work will also capitalize on the large, multidisciplinary network of investigators working on pancreatic cancer at Dana-Farber, under the umbrella of the Hale Center.
The research conducted in the Lustgarten Laboratory at Dana-Farber will focus on three main objectives:
- Study the genetic composition and functionally characterize the driver pathways of pancreatic tumors, which will lead to personalized treatment options for patients;
- Expand clinical trials for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer, in which treatments are selected using organoids, or miniature 3-D tissue samples taken from a patient’s tumor. Organoids allow multiple drugs to be tested in real time to identify the best course of treatment for the patient; and
- Identify new blood-based and imaging markers of asymptomatic pancreatic cancer and new models for pancreatic cancer risk prediction to facilitate earlier cancer detection.
The Lustgarten Laboratory at MIT will leverage its unparalleled expertise in cancer biology and engineering to advance pancreatic cancer research. Led by Tyler Jacks, Ph.D., Director of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Howard Hughes Medical Investigator, Daniel K. Ludwig Scholar and David H. Koch Professor of Biology, the laboratory will examine the immune responses to the disease using molecular profiling to characterize patients’ pancreatic tumors.
The main objectives of the Lustgarten Laboratory at MIT will be to:
- Evaluate the role the immune system plays in the development of pancreatic tumors and progression of the disease to lead to better therapeutic options;
- Explore pancreatic cancer progression using single cell profiling technologies, which will provide new insights into the mechanisms of disease development as well as identify new targets for intervention;
- Reduce the time required to produce an organoid; and,
- Use organoids and mouse models with specific mutations to examine genes that may be responsible for tumor development and explore DNA manipulation through screenings to examine disease progression.