GW cancer researchers to develop targeted therapies for pancreatic cancer

WASHINGTON (Aug. 23, 2018) — Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer related deaths in the United States with a five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent. Although it is defined by a small number of genetic alterations, efforts to pharmacologically target specific pathways have been unsuccessful.

Researchers have found that “squamous-like” pancreatic cancer, a subtype that impacts 15-20 percent of patients, is driven by deregulation of epigenetic mechanisms, resulting in the loss of cell identity and development of highly aggressive and metastatic tumors.

A team at the George Washington University (GW) Cancer Center received more than $1.8 million from the National Institutes of Health to develop genetically engineered models to comprehensively study the role of COMPASS, a protein complex that epigenetically regulates cell fate decisions that drive the initiation and progression of pancreatic cancer. Understanding the role of the COMPASS complex may allow researchers to develop targeted therapies for the squamous-like pancreatic cancer.

“Due to early metastatic spreading, only a small percentage of patients benefit from surgical removal of the tumor,” said Alexandros Tzatsos, MD, PhD, assistant professor of anatomy and cell biology at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences and principal


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