Alexander Muir, PhD

Cells require nutrients to fuel their metabolism to sustain life. Healthy tissues are fed nutrients by blood vessels in a process called perfusion. In contrast, cancers have dysfunctional blood vessels. Compared to normal tissues, blood vessels dysfunction in tumors limits perfusion. This limited perfusion results in abnormal nutrient levels in tumors. We have found that abnormal nutrients in pancreatic tumors blocks the ability of chemotherapeutic drugs to kill pancreatic cancer cells. This is an important finding as pancreatic tumors are resistant to chemotherapeutics, which causes high mortality in this disease. We propose that: (1) identifying the nutrients in pancreatic tumors and (2) how these nutrients lead to chemotherapeutic resistance could lead to new treatments to improve patient chemotherapy outcomes. These are the two critical goals of the proposed project.

To identify the metabolic stresses in tumors that cause chemotherapeutic resistance, we searched for nutrients in tumors that cause chemotherapy resistance. We found that certain amino acids accumulate to high levels in tumors and cause chemotherapy resistance. We will determine if blocking tumor accumulation of these amino acids can improve the chemotherapeutic treatment of pancreatic tumors. Toward the second goal of identifying how amino acid accumulation causes therapy resistance, we will use advanced biochemical and genetic tools to determine how the amino acids accumulating in tumors enable pancreatic cancer cells to survive chemotherapy treatment. Completing aims will provide new insight into how nutrients in pancreatic tumors cause chemotherapy resistance and provide clinically actionable approaches to improve chemotherapy response in patients.

Location: The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center - Chicago
Proposal: Targeting nutrient microenvironment induced therapy resistance in pancreatic cancer
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