Pancreatic cancer will soon become the second biggest cause of death from cancer in the United States. Patients usually find out they have this disease after it is too late for surgery. This leaves treatment as the only option, and the ones in use only help patients live for a few months. To change this, we need to find new approaches to improve the survival of our patients.
Pancreatic cancer is hard to treat for many reasons. A key issue is that the tumors are made up of many cell types, not just cancer cells. Over the past few years, we have found ways these different cells can act together within a tumor to help cancers grow or avoid therapy. Most recently, we discovered that cancer growth can be slowed by blocking exchange of the amino acid asparagine when their mitochondria are stressed.
The goal of this project is to show how cancer cells make and share asparagine. Knowing this, we can better target this metabolism to kill the cancer cells. From our previous work, we also predict this strategy will help patients better respond to immunotherapy. The results from this project will show us how to improve pancreatic cancer treatment and provide data we need to start new clinical trials.