Laboratory Based Research

Our Institute aims to reshape pancreatic cancer research, by addressing the biology behind unmet clinical needs as well as accelerating the development of innovative treatments and cures through cutting-edge basic and translational research. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the most prevalent and lethal form of the disease, presents a unique challenge. Its tumor mass mainly consists of non-cancerous cells, creating a microenvironment akin to a chronic wound, hindering tissue irrigation, nutrient entry, waste drainage, and suppressing immune function. Understanding this biology is crucial for new treatment strategies, early detection, and drug efficacy assessment.

Our team efforts focus on pancreatic cancer metabolism, deciphering signaling reciprocity between cancer and non-cancer cells like cancer-associated fibroblasts, and other cells, as well as altering the immunosuppressive stromal milieu to activate the body's natural defenses and identify drug targets. We also investigate how tumors sustain themselves with essential nutrients when their blood supply is compromised.

Utilizing tissues from biopsies and surgical samples, we culture cancer and microenvironmental cells in the lab, characterizing patients' systemic and local non-cancerous microenvironments. This approach, combined with studies using animal models, help identify new targets and assess the potential to restore natural tumor suppressive immune defenses. We investigate whether the non-cancerous (e.g. stromal cell) components and their secreted factors could enhance our current understanding for risk assessment, diagnostics, and treatment selection. Additionally, we are developing the Harmonic Output of Stromal Traits (HOST), a patient-specific test, to help clinicians make patient-specific decisions on possible treatment approaches in the future.

These initiatives propel Fox Chase to the forefront of national pancreatic cancer research.