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Dream Team Aims To Treat Pancreatic Cancer

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UC Francisco is set to join a national ‘dream team” on pancreatic cancer in a project aiming to accelerate treatment of discoveries for a deadly type of cancer.

The team was announced on April 7, 2013 in an annual event of the American Association for Cancer Research.

In reference to the National Cancer Institute, it is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the U.S and efforts in treatment of pancreatic cancer have taken a new direction with intentions of detecting it earlier and by a poor response to therapies by patients. Although it is not common, it currently kills as many as breast cancer with only 6% of patients diagnosed with it living with it for long as five years.

The intention of the dream team is to make pancreatic cancer a treatable disease.
The research will be spearheaded by Margaret Tempero, MD, a UCSF professor of medicine and director of the UCSF Pancreas Center. Tempero is recognized globally due to her battle in the improvement of the care of patients suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Tempero and the UCSF team will collaborate nationally in studying vaccines and other immune-based approaches to keep pancreatic cancer at check. For over three years, the dream team will be funded by an $8 million grant offered by Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), the Lustgarten Foundation, and the Fox Family Cancer Research Funding Trust, in collaboration with the American the American Association for Cancer Research which is a SU2C scientific partner.

Tempero said that they are starting to make more real progress marking the beginning of a new era for pancreatic cancer. Tempero has participated in the research for 30 years. She acknowledged that the cellular make up of pancreatic tumors is different from other cancers and that is the reason it is difficult to treat. Nevertheless, they have started seeing some very gratifying responses to treatment and now with surgery and chemotherapy, patients are in a better chance unlike a decade ago. She is optimistic that with the dream team’s target approach, the project will be helpful to move forward in fight against the tricky disease.

UCSF have special expertise in dealing with pancreatic cancer.

In February in the journal Nature Cell Biology, a medical research team directed by Matthias Hebrok, PhD, head of the UCSF Diabetes Center, reported identification in mice of a key gene which prevents tumor development, although when damaged through mutation, pancreatic tumor developed.

Pancreatic cancer is not common compared to other types of cancer representing only 3% of cancer cases in the U.S., although it is very lethal. It is usually slightly common in men than women and occurs as people age.

In last year, an estimated 45,000 people were diagnosed with it in the U.S. with more than 38,000 dying from it, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Tempero is the founding deputy director of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and is the chief of medical oncology in the Department of Medicine. She has also served as the president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology which is the largest cancer research organization for clinical oncologists.

She was named the chief of the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. She has authored or co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed articles, two books, and 30 book chapters. She currently serves as a member of the board of directors for the Association of Northern California Oncologists and also a member of the V Foundation and Scientific Advisory Board for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

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