Dr. Sita Kugel named 2018 V Scholar

Hutch News

Dr. Sita Kugel named 2018 V Scholar

Pancreatic cancer researcher will focus on development of targeted therapeutics

Nov. 20, 2018
Dr. Sita Kugel in the lab at Fred Hutch

With funding from the V Foundation, Dr. Sita Kugel aims to improve treatment options for pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly of all human cancers.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center pancreatic cancer researcher Dr. Sita Kugel has been named a 2018 V Scholar by the V Foundation for Cancer Research. The two-year, $200,000 award will support Kugel’s goal of developing a targeted therapy for an aggressive subtype of pancreatic cancer.

“I am incredibly humbled and honored to receive this recognition from the V Foundation,” said Kugel, an assistant member of the Human Biology Division.

About 55,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed this year, making it a relatively rare type of cancer. But though pancreatic tumors make up only 3.2 percent of new cancer diagnoses, the disease accounts for 7.2 percent of all cancer-related deaths. With current treatments, less than 10 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer can expect to survive five years. New, more effective treatments for this disease are desperately needed.

“Our project aims to improve the treatment options for pancreatic cancer, one of the most lethal of all human cancers,” Kugel said.

About 95 percent of pancreatic tumors are pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas, or PDAs. Within PDAs, researchers have characterized four major molecular subtypes. Kugel’s V Scholar project focuses on a particularly aggressive subtype, the squamous or quasi-mesenchymal, or QM, subtype. She and her team discovered that cells and patient-derived tumor grafts from this subtype of PDA are uniquely sensitive to a new drug. Kugel aims to pursue QM as a potential biomarker of sensitivity to this potential new drug, and its development as a targeted therapy for PDAs characterized by the QM gene signature.

Read more about Fred Hutch achievements and accolades.

Sabrina Richards, a staff writer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has written about scientific research and the environment for The Scientist and OnEarth Magazine. She has a Ph.D. in immunology from the University of Washington, an M.A. in journalism and an advanced certificate from the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University. Reach her at srichar2@fredhutch.org.

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