Pitt Researchers Awarded More than $1 Million by NIH to Study New Treatments for Pancreatic Cancer Patients

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Media Relations

01/02/2014

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a five-year grant of more than $1.5 million to Herbert J. Zeh III, M.D., and Michael T. Lotze, M.D., at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), partner with UPMC CancerCenter, to study a novel treatment for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), the most common form of pancreatic cancer.

PDA is the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. The five-year survival of patients suffering from PDA is less than 5 percent.

The pair hypothesize that the cancer progresses and is difficult to treat because of a biological pathway called autophagy, a form of programmed cell survival that tumor cells use to avoid apoptosis, or cell death.

“It is our hope that blocking autophagy, a new approach to treating cancer, will improve the efficacy of chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer patients,” said Dr. Lotze, professor of surgery, immunology and bioengineering, and assistant vice chancellor, University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences.

“Our goal with this award is to improve the quality of life for patients with pancreatic cancer,” said Dr. Zeh, associate professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Gastrointestinal Surgical Oncology at UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter.