Stanford stem cell researchers and physicians become part of Stand Up to Cancer’s “Dream Team” dedicated to attacking pancreatic cancer

“Thanks to the Stand Up to Cancer grant, we will be able to accelerate the research and clinical trials of our anti-CD47 antibody therapy to patients with pancreatic cancers,” said Weissman.  “We are lucky to develop a collaboration with the highly experienced teams who are developing different immunological approaches to pancreatic cancer.” 

In addition to Weissman, the members of the Stanford group will include Co-Principal investigator Ravi Majeti, MD, PhD; Branimir Sikic, MD; George Fisher, MD; Jeffrey Norton, MD; Jens-Peter Volkmer, MD; Geoffry Krampitz, MD-PhD candidate; and graduate student Adriel Cha.

The charities Stand Up to Cancer and the Lustgarten Foundation announced that researchers at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and the Stanford School of Medicine will be part of a “Dream Team” of researchers dedicated to treating pancreatic cancer. Institute Director Irv Weissman, MD, will be one of seven principal investigators from around the world to split an $8 million grant aimed at using the patient’s own immune systems to attack and destroy pancreatic cancer. The announcement was made April 7, 2014 at the annual meeting of the Amercian Association of Cancer Research (AACR) in San Diego.

Additional research centers represented on the Dream Team will be Washington University in St. Louis; University of California, San Francisco; Oregon Health & Science University; New York University Langone Medical Center; University of Cambridge, United Kingdom; and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

By Christopher Vaughan

“We are fortunate that the clinical trial team at Stanford includes Jeffrey Norton, who has developed advanced surgical approaches to remove pancreatic cancer, and George Fisher, who is deeply experienced with clinical trials of other drugs for pancreatic cancer,” Weissman said.

Experiments on human cancers implanted in mice have demonstrated that the technique can fight or cure cancer in animal models. Stanford researchers plan to start Phase I clinical safety trials of the therapy in patients this year.

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) was established in 2008 by film and media leaders who utilize the industry’s resources to engage the public in supporting a new, collaborative model of cancer research, and to increase awareness about progress being made in the fight against the disease. The organization raises funds to accelerate the pace of research and to get new therapies to patients quickly. The Lustgarten Foundation is America’s largest private foundation dedicated to funding pancreatic cancer research.

The Dream Team will be led by Elizabeth Jaffe, MD, at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Robert Vonderheide, MD, D. Phil., at the Univesity of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Stand Up to Cancer and the Lustgarten Foundation will provide the funding, which will in part come from the Fox Family Cancer Research Funding Trust.

Researchers at Stanford are testing an immune therapy against cancer based on a protein known as CD47, which can act as a “don’t eat me” signal that keeps immune cells from engulfing and destroying cells. The researchers discovered that nearly all types of cancer protect themselves with CD47, and showed that blocking the CD47 “don’t eat me” signal with antibodies allows immune cells called macrophages to eat and kill cancer cells.

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