2017 GRANTEE: Steven Hughes, MD
University of Florida
Research Project: Protein Signatures Improve the Diagnostic Yield of Fine Needle Aspiration
Award: 2017 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Translational Research Grant
Award Period: July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2019
Dr. Hughes is vice chair for quality, Cracchiolo Family Professor of Surgery and chief of general surgery at the University of Florida. He obtained his BA from the University of Minnesota and graduated from Mayo Medical School. Dr. Hughes then completed a general surgery residency as well as a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-Surgical Oncology research fellowship and a surgical critical care residency at the University of Michigan. His clinical expertise is minimally invasive approaches to hepato-pancreato-biliary diseases including the performance of laparoscopic pancreaticoduodenectomy (Whipple’s procedure).
Dr. Hughes is a past counselor-at-large and chair of the membership committee of the Society of University Surgeons. His NIH-funded research focuses on translation of pancreatic cancer biology into clinical practice. He has authored over 100 contributions to surgical literature, holds two U.S. and European patents and has served on NIH study section review boards.
Some of the barriers to earlier detection of pancreatic tumors are the difficult-to-access location of the pancreas and the dense and complex stroma that is prevalent in and around pancreatic tumors (the stroma can occupy up to 80 percent of the tumor). In fact, research has suggested that up to 32 percent of pancreatic cancer cases are missed due to “false negative” results from an endoscopic ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration (EUS-FNA) of the pancreas.
Patients whose disease is diagnosed when it’s confined to the pancreas can be candidates for surgery and have the greatest likelihood of a positive outcome.
Dr. Hughes and his colleagues have discovered that proteins released into the area around the tumor can be detectable and measured – and can accurately identify pancreatic tumors and differentiate them from pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. These proteins can be collected via the standard EUS-FNA procedure.
Through their relationship with the Consortium for the Study of Chronic Pancreatitis, Diabetes, and Pancreatic Cancer (CPDPC), Dr. Hughes and his research team will evaluate whether the signature proteins are also present in other abnormalities of the pancreas. Next, they will refine their measurement techniques to ensure that they accurately detect the proteins that indicate the presence of pancreatic cancer cells.
Finally, the researchers aim to incorporate their protein measurements into a forward-looking clinical trial to determine whether this strategy can more accurately identify pancreatic cancer in its earlier stages in patients.