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Research Team Recognized for Advancing Pancreatic Cancer Research Through Innovative, Collaborative Science


April 5, 2013

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The AACR’s Seventh Annual Team Science Award honors researchers from Johns Hopkins, Emory and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Pancreatic Cancer Sequencing Team in the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins University will receive the Seventh Annual AACR Team Science Award during the American Association for Cancer Research’s Annual Meeting 2013, held in Washington, D.C., April 6-10.

The AACR Team Science Award recognizes an outstanding interdisciplinary research team for its innovative and meritorious scientific work that has advanced or will likely advance cancer research, detection, diagnosis, prevention or treatment. This multi-institutional team was selected based on its tremendous impact on understanding of the fundamental genetic changes that characterize pancreatic cancer. This research has immediate clinical implications. The award will be presented during the opening ceremony on Sunday, April 7, at 8:15 a.m. ET in Ballroom A-B in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

“On behalf of the AACR, I congratulate this outstanding team,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), chief executive officer of the AACR. “Their research has greatly contributed to our knowledge of pancreatic cancer, which currently has an extremely poor prognosis. They have provided a wonderful example of the innovative scientific discoveries we can expect to find when the efforts of multiple institutions and different biomedical fields collaborate.”

The interdisciplinary team, led by Ralph H. Hruban, M.D., comprises 20 faculty members from three different institutions: Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.; Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.; and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, N.Y.

“This is a talented group of scientists with a shared goal — alleviating the suffering caused by pancreatic cancer,” said Hruban, professor of pathology and oncology at Johns Hopkins University. “When we came together as a team, the synergy was electric. It has been both tremendous fun and enormously productive.”

Working together for more than 10 years, the team obtained specimens of various pancreatic cancer types from more than 250 patients. They sequenced the exomes of ductal adenocarcinomas and neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas, and their research led to the discovery of a new cancer pathway, DAXX/ATRX mutations and alternative lengthening of telomeres, and the identification of new familial pancreatic cancer genes, PALB2 and ATM. In addition, they defined the time course for pancreatic neoplasia development and found a unique mutation profile for each of the four cystic tumors of the pancreas. These discoveries have provided important insight into the disease, and have important clinical applications. A clinical test was developed to screen for PALB2 mutations in patients with a family history of pancreatic cancer. The team is currently developing a gene-based test to determine pancreatic cyst type.

“To make progress against a disease as difficult as pancreatic cancer, investigators with diverse expertise are essential. We have been very fortunate to have a large number of investigators, tops in their field, on our team, selflessly giving their time and effort to the cause,” said team member Bert Vogelstein, M.D., Clayton professor of oncology and pathology at Johns Hopkins University.

The team’s contributions have resulted in two papers in the Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences, four publications in Science and manuscripts in Nature, Science Translational Medicine and AACR journals Cancer Discovery, Clinical Cancer Research and Cancer Research.

The AACR Team Science Award, generously supported by grants from Eli Lilly and Company, is presented with the intent to stimulate change within the traditional cancer research culture by recognizing those individuals and institutions that value and foster interdisciplinary team science. The winning team collectively receives a $50,000 prize and is recognized for its scientific accomplishments and leadership role in fostering team science to advance cancer research.  

Honorees are (in alphabetical order):

  • N. Volkan Adsay, M.D., professor of pathology at Emory University;
  • Peter Allen, M.D., surgical oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center;
  • Michael Choti, M.D., professor of surgery and oncology; chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology; Jacob C. Handelsman endowed chair of abdominal surgery and professor in the Whiting School of Engineering Center for Computer Integrated Surgical Systems at Johns Hopkins University;
  • Luis Diaz, M.D., associate professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University;
  • James Eshleman, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the departments of pathology and oncology, associate director of the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University;
  • Michael Goggins, M.D., professor of pathology, medicine and oncology at Johns Hopkins University;
  • Joseph Herman, M.D., associate professor of radiation oncology and molecular radiation sciences at Johns Hopkins University;
  • Ralph H. Hruban, M.D., professor of pathology and oncology; director, Division of Gastrointestinal/Liver Pathology; director, Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center; and deputy director for research of the Department of Pathology at Johns Hopkins University;
  • Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue, M.D., professor of pathology, oncology and surgery and head of the Rapid Medical Donation Program at Johns Hopkins University;
  • Scott Kern, M.D., professor of oncology and pathology at Johns Hopkins University;
  • Kenneth Kinzler, Ph.D., professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University;
  • Alison Klein, Ph.D., associate professor of oncology, pathology and epidemiology and head of the National Familial Pancreas Tumor Registry at Johns Hopkins University;
  • David S. Klimstra, M.D., professor of pathology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center;
  • Anirban Maitra, M.B.B.S., professor of pathology and oncology at Johns Hopkins University;
  • Alan Meeker, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology, urology and oncology at Johns Hopkins University;
  • Nick Papadopoulos, Ph.D., professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University;
  • Victor Velculescu, M.D., Ph.D., professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University;
  • Bert Vogelstein, M.D., Clayton professor of oncology and pathology at Johns Hopkins University, co-director of the Ludwig Center at Johns Hopkins and Howard Hughes Medical Institution investigator;
  • Christopher Wolfgang, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University; and
  • Laura Wood, M.D., Ph.D., assistant in pathology at Johns Hopkins University.
Major funding for the Pancreatic Cancer Sequencing Team in the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins University was provided by The Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, the Sol Goldman Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research, the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation, the Michael Rolfe Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

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About the American Association for Cancer Research

Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 17,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes eight peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the scientific partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of team science and individual grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit www.AACR.org.

Media Contact:
Jeremy Moore
(215) 446-7109
Jeremy.Moore@aacr.org
In Washington, D.C.,
April 6-10, 2013:

(202) 249-4005