At the April 5-9 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in San Diego, Calif., more than 18,500 people from around the world came together to learn about the newest discoveries in cancer research, share ideas and build and strengthen collaborations.
Among them were the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s most recent group of research grant recipients — 14 scientists who received nearly $5 million in funding from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. The grants were administered in partnership with the AACR. Two additional grants will be announced soon, bringing the organization’s cumulative portfolio to 110 grants, totaling nearly $23 million.
2014 Grantees Welcomed Into the Community for Progress
The AACR meeting gave the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network the chance to welcome its newest grantees into the organization’s Community for Progress and provided them with ample time to interact with the organization’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Board members, staff, and other current and past grantees. Many new grantees expressed gratitude for their awards and noted that the grants provided opportunities they might not have had without this funding.
Said two-time grantee Florencia McAllister, MD, from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, “Because of my Career Development Award in 2014 and my Samuel Stroum Fellowship in 2012, I have been able to apply my knowledge in immunology to the study of pancreatic cancer. Without these grants, I would not have been able to do this type of cross-discipline project.
“And as part of the Community for Progress,” she continued, “I have received very good advice from mentors who have been key to my career planning.”
On the final evening of the conference, the grantees were acknowledged at a formal dinner, where each was presented with a plaque signifying his or her award.
Lively Presentations Delivered by 2013 Grantees
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network also hosted a poster and discussion session featuring the 2013 research grant recipients. These scientists presented posters displaying their work and gave short presentations on topics ranging from identifying proteins involved in the initiation of pancreatic cancer growth, to novel early detection strategies, to targeting the dense stroma that surrounds pancreatic tumors. The session attracted more than 150 attendees and elicited robust discussion.
Scientific Advisory Board Member Deemed an Icon
The AACR Annual Meeting’s “Meet the Pancreatic Cancer Research Icon” session featured Margaret Tempero, MD, from the University of California, San Francisco. In the course of her presentation, she answered questions about characteristics of pancreatic cancer, experimental techniques and future research directions. Dr. Tempero is a longstanding member of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Scientific Advisory Board, and her seminal work has brought about significant progress in the biological and clinical understanding of pancreatic cancer.
Career Advice From Two Earlier Grantees
Two earlier grantees led the meeting’s “Career Paths in Pancreatic Cancer” session: Celeste Simon, PhD, and Andrew Rhim, MD. A senior investigator at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Simon was awarded an Innovative Grant in 2013. Dr. Rhim, who recently established his independent laboratory at the University of Michigan, was the recipient of a Career Development Award in 2013.
Previous Grantees Honored With Prestigious Awards
In addition, two previous Pancreatic Cancer Action Network research grant recipients received prestigious awards at this year’s meeting. Douglas Hanahan, PhD, recipient of a 2007 Pilot Grant from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, was presented the Eleventh Annual AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research. David Ting, MD, who received a Fellowship Award in 2007, was named a “NexGen Star.” The AACR established the “NexGen Stars” program to highlight early-career researchers and allow them to give oral presentations of their work.
Volunteer Inspired by AACR Experience
The AACR also provides the opportunity for members of the lay community to participate in the Annual Meeting through the Scientist-Survivor Program. This year, Ann Martin, the Education & Outreach Coordinator for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Phoenix volunteer affiliate, presented a poster highlighting the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s mission and comprehensive approach.
Ann described the experience of attending AACR as “overwhelming, exhausting and INSPIRING.” And she said, “By participating in this program, I hope to be a better advocate in the fight against pancreatic cancer. I now have more knowledge and tools to use, whether I’m talking to my congressmen regarding the need for research funding or providing support and hope to patients and caregivers.”
An Important Meeting for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
Every year, the AACR Annual Meeting helps build and strengthen the Community for Progress of pancreatic cancer researchers and gives pancreatic cancer much-needed prominence on a large international stage.
“I always leave events like the AACR Annual Meeting feeling energized and full of hope,” commented Lynn Matrisian, PhD, MBA, vice president of Scientific & Medical Affairs for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. “Our organization’s presence and the impressive quantity and quality of research presented related to pancreatic cancer emphasize the progress being made toward our goal of doubling pancreatic cancer survival by 2020.”
In May, the pancreatic cancer research community will have another opportunity to convene and share their knowledge at an AACR special conference that occurs every other year. This year’s conference, Pancreatic Cancer: Innovations in Research and Treatment, will be held in New Orleans.