News Release

WASHINGTON, DC — Four Penn Medicine researchers have been awarded a total of $2.4 million in grants from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Among recipients of the groups’ two inaugural Research Acceleration Network (RAN) grants are Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, associate professor of Hematology-Oncology and associate director of Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center and Anil Rustgi, MD, chief of the division of Gastroenterology. Both are one of the leaders of three-year grants totaling $1 million each, to support innovative, high-priority projects already under way within the pancreatic cancer research community.

Vonderheide’s team’s project seeks to accelerating the development of agonist CD40 monoclonal antibody therapy for pancreatic cancer, and Rustgi’s grant will support a multicenter trial of new imaging tests and markers for pancreatic cancer screening.

In addition, Andrew D. Rhim, MD, an instructor in the division of Gastroenterology, received a two-year, $200,000 Career Development Award grant to research a method of early-detection in “Using Human Circulating Pancreas Cells as a Biomarker for Early PDAC.”  The Career Development Award is designed to attract and support early-career scientists as they conduct pancreatic cancer research and establish successful career paths in the field.

Celeste Simon, PhD, professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, was awarded a $200,000 Innovative grant to look at the “Role of Hif1a in Inflammation, Tissue Repair and Cancer of the Pancreas.” The Innovative Grants aim to promote the development and study of novel ideas and approaches in basic, translational, clinical or epidemiological research that have direct application and relevance to pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and has a five-year survival rate of only six percent.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and AACR awarded 14 grants this year, contributing more than $5 million for pancreatic cancer research across the United States.  The RAN grants are aimed at expediting advances in the field. The recipients were recognized at the AACR Annual Meeting earlier this month.

For more information, see the Pancreatic Cancer Foundation news release.

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2015, Penn Medicine provided $253.3 million to benefit our community.