Thanks to private funding, 100% of every dollar donated to The Lustgarten Foundation goes directly to pancreatic cancer research.


Kenneth Olive, Ph.D., Columbia University Medical Center, New York City

Andrea Califano, Ph.D., Columbia University Medical Center, New York City

$2.23 million over 3 years (2018-2020) | Project: Clinical translation of regulatory network-based precision medicine for pancreatic cancer

“Precision Medicine” has been lauded as a revolutionary approach to cancer medicine. However, nearly all such efforts have focused on patient-specific DNA alterations. “OncoTreat” is a computational framework that pairs patients with optimal regimens based on gene expression data from their tumors. Rather than using DNA mutations, the approach reads the dynamic messages found in the RNA of tumor cells and interprets these to identify critical weak spots where the tumor may be attacked. Dr. Olive and Dr. Califano will make organoids for each patient, analyze the RNA of the tumor, use artificial intelligence to predict which drug could work in that specific patient based on his/her RNA profiling, and then treat each patient with the predicted drug. Dr. Olive and Dr. Califano will also conduct a clinical trial in second-line metastatic pancreatic cancer patients with the primary goals of assessing safety/feasibility and identifying early indications of efficacy.

Brian Wolpin, M.D., MPH, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston

$1,723,476 over 3 years (2017-2019) | Project: Real-time organoid drug profiling to inform personalized therapy for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer

Dr. Wolpin and his team take a two-pronged approach to implementing personalized medicine. Their first approach focuses on genetic sequencing of both the tumor DNA and the inherited DNA. The sequencing findings are used to identify new treatment programs for patients, which may include off-label use of medications that treat other cancers. The second personalized medicine approach Dr. Wolpin uses involves growing organoids in the laboratory from fresh tissue biopsies, which provides an opportunity to go beyond DNA sequencing to identify new therapy options. Dr. Wolpin is collaborating with Drs. Andrew Aguirre and William Hahn at Dana-Farber to determine whether drugs that are effective in treating a patient’s organoid in the laboratory also work to treat the cancer when given to the patient.

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