In the last three decades, no new drugs that can effectively treat pancreatic cancer have been found. One of the major problems in pancreatic cancer is that most research is performed on patients where the cancer has not spread to the rest of the body. This is because these patients are eligible for surgery and researchers have access to the tissue for experiments. However, most patients with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed when the disease has already spread. Patients where the disease has spread do very poorly compared to patients where the disease has not spread. We believe that there are changes in the cancer’s DNA that cause the disease to spread.
To investigate this, our laboratory compared the DNA from patients where the disease had or had not spread, and found that a gene that can potentially promote the spread of this cancer. This gene, named KRAS, multiplies in patients where the cancer has spread. Patients where this gene has multiplied are very resistant drugs used to treat this cancer. The goal of our project is to understand how the multiplication of this gene is related to therapy resistance. Using specialized techniques in our laboratory, we will grow tumor cells from patients with and without multiple copies of KRAS to figure out changes in the cell that are related to this specific genetic change. We intend to use this information to find new drugs to treat patients where the cancer has already spread.