2017 GRANTEE: Anirban Maitra, MBBS
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Co-principal Investigator: Samir Hanash, MD, PhD
Research Project: Optimizing Biomarker Combinations for Pancreatic Cancer Early Detection
Award: 2017 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Early Detection Targeted Grant
Award Period: July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2019
Dr. Maitra is professor of pathology and translational molecular pathology at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and scientific director of the Sheikh Ahmed Bin Zayed Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research (since August 1, 2013). Prior to this appointment, Dr. Maitra had been at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine since 2001. In 2004, Dr. Maitra received a Career Development Award from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network – his first research grant – as well as an Innovative Grant in 2014, funded in memory of Robert Aronson. He is also a member of the organization’s Scientific & Medical Advisory Board. Over the past decade, Dr. Maitra’s group has made several seminal observations in the biology and genetics of pancreatic cancer.
Dr. Hanash is a professor of clinical cancer prevention at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and director of the McCombs Institute for Cancer Early Detection and Treatment, which is composed of seven centers within MD Anderson. Dr. Hanash earned his BS and MD degrees from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, and he underwent his clinical residency and his PhD studies at the University of Michigan. His interests and expertise focus on the development and application of integrated approaches to the molecular profiling of cancer, with emphasis on the identification of circulating cancer markers and antigens that induce an immune response. He has been a principal investigator for several large multi-investigator, multidisciplinary projects aimed at cancer molecular profiling.
The majority of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed with locally advanced or metastatic disease, which leads to a poorer prognosis. Pancreatic cancer develops through progressive stages, and therefore there is a wide window of opportunity to detect the disease in its early or precancerous stages, when the disease is still asymptomatic.
To improve pancreatic cancer early detection, Drs. Maitra and Hanash will validate blood-based biomarker panels using cutting-edge diagnostic techniques. Biomarkers are biological clues that are detectable and measurable – and the researchers are seeking to identify several biomarkers in patients’ blood samples that signify the presence of early pancreatic cancer. Blood-based biomarkers represent a relatively noninvasive and cost-effective method for identifying subjects at high risk of developing pancreatic cancer and for detecting the disease at early stages to trigger further assessment.
The proposed studies build on the researchers’ highly sensitive “anchor” protein panel, which includes biomarkers that show promise in signifying the presence of early pancreatic cancer. Drs. Maitra and Hanash and their research teams will determine how including other biomarkers will increase the sensitivity and specificity (reduce false positives and false negatives, respectively) of their biomarker panel in assessing risk of harboring or developing pancreatic cancer among: (1) asymptomatic, otherwise average risk subjects and (2) subjects with established increased risk. The long-term goal of this Early Detection Targeted Grant proposal is to identify reliable blood-based biomarker(s) with high sensitivity and specificity for discriminating adults with a high risk of harboring or developing an early pancreatic cancer lesion.