Grants - V Scholar Grants - Texas - 2015

Cullen Taniguchi, M.D., Ph.D.

2015 V Foundation Wine Celebration Vintner Grant in Honor of Rick and Elaine Jones With Support From Becky and Howard Young

Pancreatic cancer is an almost universally deadly disease because it spreads quickly to other organs (metastasizes) easily and there is no early detection mechanism. Surgery can be an effective treatment, but less than 10% of patients are diagnosed at a resectable stage. About 30% of patients with pancreatic cancer have locally advanced pancreatic cancer, where the cancer has not yet metastasized, but cannot be removed by surgery. The only way to kill locally advanced pancreatic cancer is with chemotherapy and radiation. Radiation therapy can kill any tumor but its therapeutic effects are limited by unavoidable damage to normal tissue near the cancerous target. For instance, adenocarcinomas of the pancreatic head require high doses of radiation to achieve tumor control, but these cannot be safely given to patient because the pancreas sits near a part of the small bowel called the duodenum, which is very sensitive to radiation damage. Thus, we can never give the amount of radiation needed to kill the tumor without causing undue harm to the duodenum (and the patient). My research will solve this problem by strengthening the duodenum and nearby tissues to withstand higher doses of radiation by activating the hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs), which promote recovery from radiation treatments without protecting tumors. My published work has shown that HIF2 can reduce GI toxicity from radiation, and this proposal seeks to use this biology to make the duodenum more resistant to radiation toxicity to allow us to give higher doses of therapeutic radiation to the pancreatic tumors.