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SU2C-Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team: Transforming Pancreatic Cancer to a Treatable Disease

Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD

Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD

Deputy Director, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins

Robert H. Vonderheide, MD

Robert H. Vonderheide, MD

Director, Abramson Cancer Center


The SU2C–Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team is focused on pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), one of the deadliest types of cancer. This team is working to understand the barriers to treatment that this type of cancer presents, in order to develop new therapies that will effectively treat it.

Progress to Date

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) is resistant to most forms of therapy and is one of the deadliest types of cancer. Studies in mice and humans have shown that the environment surrounding a PDA tumor, called the microenvironment, has unique characteristics that are thought to limit the efficacy of treatment.

The Dream Team uses a “convergence” approach, in which leading individuals in different scientific fields work together toward understanding and treating PDA.

The Dream Team has been conducting numerous clinical trials using combinations of drugs and is gaining insight as to which molecules can be measured as indicators, or biomarkers, of tumor microenvironment reprogramming. The team’s trials are focusing on new ways to reverse immune suppression in the tumor, either in combination with a vaccine that activates anticancer immune cells called T cells, or in combination with chemotherapy. These trials will also contribute to the establishment of a national PDA biobank for identification of immune biomarkers

In its work to date, the Dream Team has:

  • The research team has successfully enrolled patients on both of their studies of anti-CD40 +/- chemotherapy study in neoadjuvant pancreatic cancer and the AMD3100. The team has collected the samples and is performing the analysis.
  • The team recently demonstrated the complexity of the tumor-associated myeloid compartment and how this compartment is remodeled by treatments that result in tumor rejection versus treatments that lead to continued tumor progression. This was published by Gubin, et. al in Cell, 2018.
  • The team is integrated and interactive, sharing data and specimens, so that each participating group appears to be taking advantage of unique strengths available at individual centers.
  • The five original trials had good accrual with a total enrollment of 620 patients (including 424 on the Phase III trial) and SU2C funding was leveraged so that additional related trials were added. The additional ongoing work will likely add to the knowledge in the field and hopefully will lead to larger more definitive studies aimed at establishing how best to assess efficacy.


$8 million


  • ​Dafna Bar-Sagi, PhD, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, New York
  • Lisa M. Coussens, PhD, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon
  • Douglas T. Fearson, PhD, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • Robert Schreiber, PhD, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Margaret A. Tempero, MD, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California
  • Irving L. Weissman, MD, Stanford University, Stanford, California


  • ​Betty Booher
  • Stuart Rickerson