GRANTEE: Gregory Beatty, MD, PhD
University of Pennsylvania
Research Project: Immune escape mechanisms in metastatic pancreatic cancer
Award: 2015 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network – AACR Career Development Award (Grant funded by an anonymous foundation)
Award Period: July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2017
Dr. Beatty is an assistant professor of medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and in the division of hematology/oncology within the Abramson Cancer Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Beatty graduated from Bucknell University with a BS in chemical engineering and then earned his PhD in immunology followed by an MD from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. He went on to complete a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in medical oncology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Beatty’s research interest is in understanding the role of macrophages in regulating innate and adaptive immunosurveillance in cancer. He has developed a research platform within his laboratory that uses genetically engineered mouse models of cancer to study leukocyte biology within the tumor microenvironment and to screen novel immunotherapeutic strategies for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. In addition, he is currently leading several early phase clinical studies investigating immunotherapeutic approaches for pancreatic cancer.
One of the survival mechanisms of cancer cells is their ability to avoid recognition and attack by the patient’s immune system. Cancer immunotherapeutic approaches strive to prevent this evasion and harness the immune system to fight the tumor. A hallmark of pancreatic cancer is its tendency to metastasize, or spread, to other organs, most frequently the liver. Under normal conditions, pancreas cells within the liver would be deemed “foreign” and destroyed by the immune system. Preliminary data suggest that under metastatic conditions, this outcome is prevented by the immune cells within the liver tissue environment welcoming the pancreatic cancer cells, and the cancer cells themselves signaling to the immune system to allow their presence. Dr. Beatty’s project entails studying the role the immune system plays in allowing and facilitating pancreatic cancer metastasis and devising immunotherapeutic strategies to block metastatic spread.
For this project, Dr. Beatty will utilize a genetically engineered mouse model of pancreatic cancer whereby the disease progression and spread mimic human disease. He proposes to systematically eliminate specific types of immune cells in livers of the mice in order to determine which cells enable the metastatic spread of the pancreatic cancer cells. In addition, Dr. Beatty and his research team will examine ways to alter the liver immune cells to train them to attack, rather than welcome, the cancer cells, as well as methods to alter the cancer cells so that they are more easily recognizable by the immune cells as foreign. Overall, Dr. Beatty’s project intends to provide insight into factors that regulate pancreatic cancer metastasis and to inform the development of novel immunotherapeutic approaches for inhibiting and treating metastatic disease.