2017 GRANTEE: Brett Sheppard, MD
Oregon Health & Science University
Co-principal Investigator: Rosalie Sears, PhD
Research Project: Blood-based and Imaging Biomarkers of PDAC in New-onset Diabetics
Award: 2017 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Early Detection Targeted Grant
Award Period: July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2019
Dr. Sheppard serves as vice chair of surgery and clinical co-director of the Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Care at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). The Center’s three areas of focus are to develop early detection testing for pancreatic cancer, to establish innovative precision medicine trials for pancreatic cancer patients and to study and develop therapies to enhance quality of life for patients with pancreatic diseases and their families through translational and clinical studies. Dr. Sheppard earned his BSc at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MS in physiology at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. He received his MD from Chicago Medical School and underwent his residency and fellowship at OHSU and the National Cancer Institute, respectively.
Dr. Sears is a professor of molecular & medical genetics and research co-director of the Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Care at OHSU. Her expertise includes cellular signaling pathways that control tumor cell phenotype with a focus on their regulation of the c-Myc oncoprotein and how this impacts its expression, transcriptional activity and the regulation of cell function. She earned a BA from Reed College in Portland, Ore., and her PhD from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Dr. Sears did her postdoctoral training at Duke University. She joined the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Scientific & Medical Advisory Board in 2016.
Currently, the greatest hurdle to early detection of pancreatic cancer is a lack of technologies with sensitivity and specificity capable of identifying low levels of biomarkers (measurable substances) present in early disease. The objective of this project is to develop innovative methods that can address this hurdle for early detection of bloodborne markers of pancreatic cancer.
Recent reports have revealed that the risk for new-onset diabetics (NoD, patients over the age of 50 with new diabetes diagnosis with no prior medical or family history of the disease) developing pancreatic cancer is nearly eight times greater than that of the general population. Drs. Sheppard and Sears propose screening blood samples from NoD patients who subsequently developed pancreatic cancer. For this retrospective analysis, they will use a test called the IMMray PanCan-d signature, developed by Immunovia AB, that detects circulating inflammatory markers that are released into the blood as a result of cancer.
If successful, they will develop and validate an early detection method that can be used in conjunction with standard screening methods. The researchers’ efforts will contribute to the 2020 goal of doubling pancreatic cancer survival by implementing a modality to detect this cancer when it is at an early stage, amenable to surgical resection and cure.