Funded by the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund
Using immunotherapy to treat advanced cancer has improved the outlook of cancer treatment in many cancer types. However, most of the gastrointestinal cancers, including pancreatic adenocarcinoma, do not benefit from such advances in immunotherapy. Upon further research, we have learned that dense non-cancer cells that surround these cancers not only prevent the chemotherapy drugs from reaching the cancer cells, but also prevent the tumor-targeting immune cells that allow immunotherapy to be effective. Research from Washington University show that a molecule called IRAK4 can control such a process and make pancreatic cancer respond better to chemotherapy while allowing immunotherapy to be effective. Based on the promising data from the laboratory, we propose a clinic trial of CA-4948, a drug that inhibits IRAK4 and has shown to be safe by itself, to be added to standard chemotherapy drugs to ensure safety. Then an immunotherapy drug will be added to the combination. We plan to collect blood and tumor samples from the patients receiving the combination of CA-4948, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy, to understand how these drugs change the tumor and components of the immune system in patients. In addition, we plan to further test this combination in animal models to test additional mechanisms that can improve immunotherapy in pancreatic cancer.