Good News: $1.8M Cancer Moonshot grant advances precision medicine for pancreatic cancer

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Dec. 7, 2017
Dr. Sunil Hingorani in his lab at Fred Hutch

Dr. Sunil Hingorani

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

$1.8 million Cancer Moonshot grant advances precision medicine for pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer researcher Dr. Sunil Hingorani has won a three-year, $1.8 million grant from the federal Cancer Moonshot program, the signature initiative of former Vice President Joseph Biden. Hingorani is one of six collaborators nationwide who received funding this fall for a new research consortium focused on the biological context of pancreatic tumors — such as nearby immune cells or blood vessels — which can have a major impact on a tumor’s vulnerability to treatment.

With their awards, Hingorani and his consortium collaborators will develop new therapies that target the tumor’s defenses in its microenvironment. In his project, Hingorani will pursue a variety of treatment strategies that combine cancer-killing drugs with new agents that disrupt the tumor’s supportive tissues or alter the immune response. The project is eligible for an additional two years of funding after the initial three.

With the ultimate aim of translation to patients, the researchers will use several state-of-the-art experimental models in their lab studies.

“In addition to learning about potentially new ways to treat pancreas cancer, we also hope to learn which model systems are most predictive of outcomes in patients,” said Hingorani, who holds the Raisbeck Endowed Chair for Pancreatic Research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The new pancreatic cancer consortium is one of five research teams that received funding in September from the National Cancer Institute through the Cancer Moonshot for research in precision oncology. Other members of the new pancreatic cancer consortium are investigators at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the University of Michigan, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Within the larger consortium effort, Hingorani’s project is itself a collaboration with several colleagues at other institutions, including Dr. Gregory Beatty of the University of Pennsylvania and Drs. Manuel Hidalgo and Senthil Muthuswamy of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

“One of the unique aspects of our proposal is that it brings together leading experts in each of the specific experimental systems,” Hingorani said. “The overall consortium effort similarly brings together five leading teams of investigators all dedicated to figuring out pancreas cancer in an open environment that encourages sharing of data and ideas in real time. Thus, I hope it will also represent a highly inclusive and collaborative effort.” 

The Cancer Moonshot was announced by former President Barack Obama in January 2016. The effort is aimed at doubling the rate of progress in cancer research by promoting new collaborations and increasing funding for cancer science. Biden took on the mantle of leading the effort following the death of his son, Beau Biden, from brain cancer.

Among the other precision oncology projects funded this September through the Moonshot is a project led by Dr. Charles Sawyers of Memorial Sloan Kettering, which establishes a collaborative joint effort between that institution, the University of Washington and Fred Hutch focused on drug resistance and drug sensitivity in prostate cancer.

Fred Hutch proteomics researcher Dr. Amanda Paulovich in February was tapped by the Moonshot effort to create a panel of tests to measure proteins that can be telltale tumor markers.

— Susan Keown / Fred Hutch News Service

Drs. Paul Ramsey, Gary Gilliland and Jeff Sperring tour the University of Washington Genome Sciences lab of Dr. Jay Shendure, who is the director of the new Brotman Baty Precision Medicine Research Institute

Drs. Paul Ramsey, chief executive officer of UW Medicine; Dr. Gary Gilliland, president and director of Fred Hutch; and Seattle Children's CEO Jeff Sperring tour the lab of University of Washington Professor of Genome Sciences Dr. Jay Shendure (far right), the director of the new Brotman Baty Precision Medicine Research Institute. The photo was taken Nov. 17, the day the three executives signed the memorandum of understanding for the new institute.

Photo by Clare McLean / University of Washington

Brotman Baty Precision Medicine Research Institute launches with gifts of $50 million

Leadership at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UW Medicine and Seattle Children’s today announced visionary gifts of $50 million to enable the launch of the Brotman Baty Precision Medicine Research Institute. The new institute will foster collaboration among the three organizations to develop personalized treatments for cancer and other diseases.

Below is the announcement from Dr. Gary Gilliland, president and director of Fred Hutch; Dr. Paul Ramsey, chief operating officer of UW Medicine; and Dr. Jeff Sperring, CEO of Seattle Children’s:

We are pleased to announce the creation of the Brotman Baty Precision Medicine Research Institute, a collaboration among UW Medicine, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Children’s.

Founded with visionary gifts from Jeffrey H. and Susan Brotman, and Daniel R. and Pamela L. Baty, the institute — led by UW Professor of Genome Sciences Dr. Jay Shendure — will broaden and deepen our scientific knowledge and change the way we care for patients. 

For years, the practice of medicine has been founded on a 1:1 correspondence: a drug is developed for a disease, and everyone diagnosed with the disease receives that drug. However, diseases like cancer — complex and ever-evolving — prove definitively that one treatment does not work for everyone. Instead, we need to find multiple solutions for our patients, which necessitate a new approach to medicine. 

Precision medicine is that approach. The richer the data we have on a patient — information from the genome, for instance, as well as other data — the better we can predict what medication might work to treat diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease or Alzheimer’s. 

As many of you know, UW Medicine, Fred Hutch and Seattle Children’s have already begun working on precision medicine approaches. What the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine does, however, is make us exponentially more effective by making us more collaborative — and giving us the resources to do our best work. 

Researchers will work together on shared scientific interests in multiple program areas: medical genomics, cancer biology, childhood diseases and technology development. They will have access to centralized services, also known as platforms, to conduct investigations. And together, they will take on flagship projects that will strengthen the foundation of precision medicine, from creating a cell atlas to developing genomic medicine for children with rare diseases. 

With the help of the Brotman and Baty families, collaboration among three superb institutions, and the rise of evermore powerful medical technology, we know the institute will live up to its mission: to have a transformative impact on how we treat patients both here and around the world. 

Visit BrotmanBatyInstitute.org to read the full press release, view videos and learn more about the institute. And please join us in looking forward to the future of medical care: precision medicine.


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