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Fox Chase Researcher Ralph Francescone Receives Prestigious Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Award

July 22, 2021

PHILADELPHIA (July 22, 2021)—Ralph Francescone, PhD, a researcher at Fox Chase Cancer Center, was recently awarded a grant from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) to continue his work in advancing pancreatic cancer therapies.

PanCAN is a leading nonprofit in the fight against pancreatic cancer. Recipients of its 2021 research grants and grant extensions were recently announced, including 11 newly awarded grants and two previously funded grants.

Francescone was a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Edna Cukierman, PhD, and is now a research assistant professor. He will receive an Early Career Development Award in memory of Skip Viragh, worth $200,000 over two years to continue studying fibroblasts, cells that help create and maintain the structure of tissues.

Francescone is a member of the Marvin and Concetta Greenberg Pancreatic Cancer Institute, which Cukierman is the co-director of. The award will allow him to develop his own research out of Cukierman’s lab, thus ramping up his independent career.

“Surprisingly, fibroblasts are even more abundant than the tumor cells themselves in pancreatic cancer, and figuring out why there are so many fibroblasts in pancreatic cancer is of great interest in this field of research, as these cells may be responsible for the terrible prognosis seen in patients,” said Francescone.

Specifically, Francescone said he will be exploring how a particular “fuel” that pancreatic cancer needs to grow and survive simultaneously limits the ability of the immune system to seek and destroy cancer cells.

“I am so grateful and honored to have been selected as a recipient for one of the most prestigious awards for young investigators in pancreatic cancer. This funding will serve as a major stepping stone to have a realistic chance at my dream of running an independent laboratory with my wife, Dr. Débora Barbosa Vendramini Costa,” said Francescone.

“We have dedicated our lives to cancer research, with a heavy emphasis on pancreatic cancer research, and there is no award that could mean more to us than the PanCAN Career Development Award,” he added.

“At PanCAN, we recognize that research is critical in the fight to improve outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients, and we will continue to invest significant dollars into this arena to support and build the research community,” said Julie Fleshman, JD, MBA, president and CEO of PanCAN. “Thanks to the support of our generous donors, we are proud to be funding so many innovative research projects this year.”

Since 2003, PanCAN’s grants program has awarded 218 grants to 203 scientists at 75 institutions. Beyond research funding, grant recipients also gain access to PanCAN’s Community for Progress, a cohesive network of researchers focused on improving pancreatic cancer patient outcomes through mentorship and collaboration.

According to PanCAN, career development awardees go on to receive an average of $31.23 in subsequent pancreatic cancer research funding for every dollar PanCAN has invested in them. Awardees across all PanCAN grant types go on to receive an average of $11.50 in subsequent funding for each dollar PanCAN has invested. Additionally, PanCAN grant funding during the evaluation period has resulted in more than 2,700 scientific publications and those publications were cited more than 260,000 times.PHILADELPHIA (July 22, 2021)—Ralph Francescone, PhD, a researcher at Fox Chase Cancer Center, was recently awarded a grant from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) to continue his work in advancing pancreatic cancer therapies.

PanCAN is a leading nonprofit in the fight against pancreatic cancer. Recipients of its 2021 research grants and grant extensions were recently announced, including 11 newly awarded grants and two previously funded grants.

Francescone was a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Edna Cukierman, PhD, and is now a research assistant professor. He will receive an Early Career Development Award in memory of Skip Viragh, worth $200,000 over two years to continue studying fibroblasts, cells that help create and maintain the structure of tissues.

Francescone is a member of the Marvin and Concetta Greenberg Pancreatic Cancer Institute, which Cukierman is the co-director of. The award will allow him to develop his own research out of Cukierman’s lab, thus ramping up his independent career.

“Surprisingly, fibroblasts are even more abundant than the tumor cells themselves in pancreatic cancer, and figuring out why there are so many fibroblasts in pancreatic cancer is of great interest in this field of research, as these cells may be responsible for the terrible prognosis seen in patients,” said Francescone.

Specifically, Francescone said he will be exploring how a particular “fuel” that pancreatic cancer needs to grow and survive simultaneously limits the ability of the immune system to seek and destroy cancer cells.

“I am so grateful and honored to have been selected as a recipient for one of the most prestigious awards for young investigators in pancreatic cancer. This funding will serve as a major stepping stone to have a realistic chance at my dream of running an independent laboratory with my wife, Dr. Débora Barbosa Vendramini Costa,” said Francescone.

“We have dedicated our lives to cancer research, with a heavy emphasis on pancreatic cancer research, and there is no award that could mean more to us than the PanCAN Career Development Award,” he added.

“At PanCAN, we recognize that research is critical in the fight to improve outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients, and we will continue to invest significant dollars into this arena to support and build the research community,” said Julie Fleshman, JD, MBA, president and CEO of PanCAN. “Thanks to the support of our generous donors, we are proud to be funding so many innovative research projects this year.”

Since 2003, PanCAN’s grants program has awarded 218 grants to 203 scientists at 75 institutions. Beyond research funding, grant recipients also gain access to PanCAN’s Community for Progress, a cohesive network of researchers focused on improving pancreatic cancer patient outcomes through mentorship and collaboration.

According to PanCAN, career development awardees go on to receive an average of $31.23 in subsequent pancreatic cancer research funding for every dollar PanCAN has invested in them. Awardees across all PanCAN grant types go on to receive an average of $11.50 in subsequent funding for each dollar PanCAN has invested. Additionally, PanCAN grant funding during the evaluation period has resulted in more than 2,700 scientific publications and those publications were cited more than 260,000 times.

The Hospital of Fox Chase Cancer Center and its affiliates (collectively “Fox Chase Cancer Center”), a member of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

 

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