Research

Supporting a diverse research portfolio across Canada.

Partners

Craig's Cause Pancreatic Cancer Society is proud of the partnerships we have forged over the years. We understand that we can not defeat pancreatic cancer alone. We need a community of like minded organizations working with us with meet today's challenges head on.

We would like to recognize and thank the following organizations who believe in building a future where pancreatic cancer survival will be expected.

Beatrice Hunter Research Institute

Canadian Cancer Society

New Brunswick Health Research Foundation

Pancreatic Cancer Canada Foundation

QEII Foundation

The Rounds

World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition

Projects Funded

Preparation of Mitochondrial Damage-Associated Molecular Patterns from Mouse Liver Tissue

Lead Researcher

Lauren Westhaver, Sarah Nersesian, Adam Nelson, Leah MacLean, Emily Carter, Jeanette Boudreau

Project Outline

This latest publication follows work published in Cell Reports, where the authors demonstrated that dying cells release compounds that slow the generation of immune responses, which could potentially be broadly applicable to disease, including cancer and pre-cancerous conditions, where immunosurveillance (activity of the immune system) is key to controlling cancer development and the rate of its growth. The above publication describes how to isolate the factors released from dying cells; in publishing it, the authors hope to mobilize many research teams to test the impact of dying cells in their model systems, to inform methods to control and direct immune responsiveness, including in patients with cancer.

Leah MacLean and Emily Carter are current trainees in the Cancer Research Training Program of the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute, with funds provided by the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation (DMRF)’s Crease Endowment for Cancer Research to Emily. Sarah Nersesian and Adam Nelson are CRTP Alumni. Adam was supported by Craig’s Cause Pancreatic Cancer Society.

Dr. Jeanette Boudreau is a BHCRI Senior Scientist.

Preparation of Mitochondrial Damage-Associated Molecular Patterns from Mouse Liver Tissue

Lauren Westhaver, Sarah Nersesian, Adam Nelson, Leah MacLean, Emily Carter, Jeanette Boudreau

Precise Pancreatic Tumour Targeting with NK Cell Mediated Immunotherapy

Lead Researcher

Stacey Lee, PhD Student, Dalhousie University

Project Outline

This project is focused on identifying which markers pancreatic cancer cells are using to trick the NK (natural killer white blood cells which can fight cancer) cells and then using that information to choose NK cells populations that will not be shutdown by the cancer cells. If we can establish a working model of NK cell driven tumour death by identifying these markers in patients, we can better understand how NK cells can be used to target tumours. With this information, future studies can look at creating treatment plans that are focused on the needs of each patient and can target that patient’s specific tumour profile.

Funded by: BHRI & CCPCS

Precise Pancreatic Tumour Targeting with NK Cell Mediated Immunotherapy

Stacey Lee, PhD Student, Dalhousie University

Direct Inhibition of mRNA Translation for Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer

Lead Researcher

Dr. Michael Pollack, Canadian Cancer Society, Lady Davis Institute

Project Outline

In this project, Dr Michael Pollak and his team will evaluate a novel approach to the treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer, a disease where current treatment options are limited. They will evaluate a new drug candidate that they expect will selectively block the synthesis of particular proteins that are required by cancer cells to behave aggressively. This approach has not previously been evaluated in pancreatic cancer in the lab, so they have established a collaboration that will allow them to test the drug candidate in a mouse model that closely resembles the human disease. They will gain insight into this therapy not only by monitoring tumour growth rates, but also the synthesis of the proteins that they expect will be influenced by the drug.

Funded by: CIHR, CCS & CCPCS

Direct Inhibition of mRNA Translation for Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer

Dr. Michael Pollack, Canadian Cancer Society, Lady Davis Institute

Development of Natural Killer Cell–Based Precision Immunotherapy for Pancreatic Cancer

Lead Researcher

Dr. Jeanette Boudreau, Canadian Cancer Society, Dalhousie University

Project Outline

Each person with pancreatic cancer has a unique tumour, but each person has a unique immune system too. Dr Jeanette Boudreau and her team are studying how the immune system and the tumour interact, work together and oppose each other in order to decide whether the tumour will continue to grow or be eliminated by the immune system. Dr Boudreau plans to use this information to teach every pancreatic cancer patient’s immune system to effectively eliminate their tumour.

Funded By: CIHR, CCS, & CCPCS

Development of Natural Killer Cell–Based Precision Immunotherapy for Pancreatic Cancer

Dr. Jeanette Boudreau, Canadian Cancer Society, Dalhousie University

Repurposing Anti-Folate Receptor Antibodies for NK-Driven Precision Pancreatic Cancer Immunotherapy

Lead Researcher

Helmi Alfarra, Post-Doctorate Student, Dalhousie University

Project Outline

Some cancers, but not healthy cells, overexpress a protein called folate receptor alpha (FRa), which can act as a flag for the immune system. Pancreatic cancer is highly deadly, and current cancer treatment approaches do not work well. Some pancreatic cancers express the FRa “flag”, and this study aims to determine how to use it to teach the immune system to target them. This study also looks at natural killer (NK) white blood cells, which can tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy cells, to see what the characteristics are between NK cells that succeed against cancer and those that don't in the hope of designing new and effective strategies to treat patients with pancreatic cancer.'

Funded by: BHRI & CCPCS

Repurposing Anti-Folate Receptor Antibodies for NK-Driven Precision Pancreatic Cancer Immunotherapy

Helmi Alfarra, Post-Doctorate Student, Dalhousie University

Combined VSV and NKT Cell Activation in Panc-02 Pancreatic Cancer

Lead Researcher

Adam Nelson, Masters Student, Dalhousie University

Project Outline

This project is focused on combining activation of natural killer T (NKT) cells with viruses that specifically target tumor cells called oncolytic viruses. The oncolytic virus this project works with is known as Vesicular Stomatitis Virus or VSV. The project is also currently working on creating VSV strains that express various cytokines that will increase the NKT cells anti-tumor immune response and lead to increased tumor death. These studies are important because they provide a novel therapeutic route for cancer patients with less side effects than traditional treatment options.

Funded by: BHRI & CCPCS

Combined VSV and NKT Cell Activation in Panc-02 Pancreatic Cancer

Adam Nelson, Masters Student, Dalhousie University

Could a Vaccine Prevent Cancer from Spreading after Surgery?

Lead Researcher

Dr Rebecca Auer, scientist and surgical oncologist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Project Outline

The main treatment for many types of cancer is surgery. In fact, more than half of all people with cancer will have some type of surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible. Unfortunately, because the trauma of surgery can weaken the immune system, sometimes cancer is more likely to spread after surgery. Currently there is nothing being done routinely to boost a patient’s immune system to prevent cancer from spreading after surgery. Dr Auer has developed a vaccine containing oncolytic (or cancer-killing) viruses. Oncolytic viruses are designed to safely travel through the body to seek out and destroy cancer cells while leaving normal cells intact. Dr Auer has chosen to focus her research on pancreatic cancer because, despite surgical removal, the cancer almost always comes back, leading to one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer. She is hopeful that her research will lead to new therapies within as little as 5 years.

Funded by: CCS, NPCF, QEII & CCPCS

Could a Vaccine Prevent Cancer from Spreading after Surgery?

Dr Rebecca Auer, scientist and surgical oncologist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Understanding the Roles of CTP Synthase and Gemcitabine in Pancreatic Cancer

Lead Researcher

Gregory McCluskey (Supervisor, Dr. Stephen L. Bearne, Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, cross-appointed with the Department of Chemistry)

Project Outline

Research in the Bearne Lab focuses on developing a better understanding of how enzymes of therapeutic interest mediate cellular activities, and how they interact with chemotherapeutic agents. Specifically, the research examines the interaction of the drug gemcitabine with the chemotherapy target cytidine 5′- triphosphate synthase (CTPS). Information gained from these studies helps determine how gemcitabine inhibits CTPS and mediates its tumour-killing effects, and provides insight into how to overcome acquired chemoresistance. These studies will be significant because they will inform future drug design and strategies for overcoming resistance to gemcitabine, which often occurs with pancreatic cancer.

Funded by: BHCRI & CCPCS

Understanding the Roles of CTP Synthase and Gemcitabine in Pancreatic Cancer

Gregory McCluskey (Supervisor, Dr. Stephen L. Bearne, Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, cross-appointed with the Department of Chemistry)

Use of a Novel Extracellular Microvesicle Capture Method for the Enrichment and Identification of Pancreatic Cancer Biomarkers

Lead Researcher

Stephen Lewis, Rodney Ouellette and Anirban Ghost, Moncton-based Atlantic Cancer Research Institute

Project Outline

A current challenge for the treatment of pancreatic cancer is its early detection in high-risk populations. We currently do not have effective screening methods that allow this disease to be consistently detected early enough to allow appropriate treatment and a chance at a cure. Current testing for pancreatic biomarkers (red-flags that indicate the presence of pancreatic cancer) requires invasive techniques, like a biopsy. Our approach will apply our novel technology for the capture of small packages of information from the blood (called extracellular microvesicles) to the detection of existing pancreatic cancer biomarkers. We will also use our technology to discover new, better biomarkers for pancreatic cancer.

Funded by: NBHRF & CCPCS

Use of a Novel Extracellular Microvesicle Capture Method for the Enrichment and Identification of Pancreatic Cancer Biomarkers

Stephen Lewis, Rodney Ouellette and Anirban Ghost, Moncton-based Atlantic Cancer Research Institute

The Role of P11 Protein in Pancreatic Cancer

Lead Researcher

Moamen Bydoun (Supervisor, Dr. David Waisman, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Canada Research Chair in Cancer Research)

Project Outline

In the laboratory, it has been established that a surface protein called p11 is an essential element in allowing cancer cells to become invasive and reach the blood stream eventually leading to metastasis. Depleting cancer cells from p11 causes a dramatic reduction in their invasive potential. To date, the role of p11 in pancreatic cancer is not established. It is known that human pancreatic cancers have elevated levels of p11 potentially providing a needed advantage for this cancer. Supported by our previous work on p11 and by promising preliminary results, we propose that p11 plays an important role in maintaining cancer growth and metastasis in pancreatic cancer. For this purpose, we will be utilizing cellular and molecular approaches to study how p11 regulates protease activity and contributes to the invasive potential of pancreatic cancer cells. It will ultimately help us define if p11 is a “druggable” target for metastasis-preventing treatments.

Funded by: CCPCS & BHCRI 

The Role of P11 Protein in Pancreatic Cancer

Moamen Bydoun (Supervisor, Dr. David Waisman, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Canada Research Chair in Cancer Research)

Treatment Provided to NS patients, is it Optimal?

Lead Researcher

Dr. Scott Hurton

Project Outline

This study looks at a group of patients who developed PC in Nova Scotia over the past ten years and examines the treatment of these patients. The information from this study will lead to future research that will further examine the healthcare resources used by PC patients. This may allow us to use these resources for PC patients to improve their quality of life and potentially prolong their survival.

Funded by: CCPCS & BHCRI

Treatment Provided to NS patients, is it Optimal?

Dr. Scott Hurton

Duodenopancreatectomy Versus Best Supportive Care for Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma

Lead Researcher

Dr. Michele Molinari, Associate Professor, Department of Surgery and Community Health, Dalhousie University

Project Outline

Many surgeons and physicians have been considering that the Whipple procedure is only a palliative therapy. In their opinion, the results are not good enough to suggest that the Whipple procedure should be offered to patients. Although they realize that without undergoing surgery, the mean survival is only 6 months, these doctors say that most of the patients with pancreatic cancer are quite advanced in their age and therefore they should not be operated on.

No previous research has focused attention to the patients' perspective. As physicians, we recommend some treatments because they are the only available potential way to cure. Despite the fact that the Whipple fails for the majority of our patients, we are able to cure a few of them. Is that sufficient to support surgery for everyone? We don't know. The interest of this study is to find out.

Funded by: CCPCS

Duodenopancreatectomy Versus Best Supportive Care for Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma

Dr. Michele Molinari, Associate Professor, Department of Surgery and Community Health, Dalhousie University