Ohio State Leads International Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Development Effort

August 29, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio – An estimated 44,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year – and an estimated 37,000 will die from the disease – making it the fourth leading cancer killer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The fact that 84 percent of those who develop pancreatic cancer die of it underscores the need for new therapies to treat this malignancy.

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) is leading a an international pancreatic cancer research effort in collaboration with scientific investigators based in Taiwan and Germany to develop new targeted therapies and novel biomarkers for pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Tanios Bekaii-Saab, section chief of the section of gastrointestinal oncology at OSUCCC – James is partnering with Drs. Pin-Wen Lin, Yan-Shen Chan and Po-Hsien Huang from the National Cheng-Kung University in Tainan City, Taiwan, and former Ohio State researcher Christoph Plass, of the Division of Epigenomics and Cancer Risk Factors, German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg in Germany, to conduct the initiative. The researchers will work to identify new targets in pancreatic tumors and develop novel agents to strike those targets and halt the progression of pancreatic cancer.

Because pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage, the survival rate is poor compared with those for other cancer types. Overall five-year survival rate is 5.8 percent.

"By partnering with these international researchers, we will bring multinational talent and will have access to a robust tumor bank for pancreatic cancer which will help to speed drug discovery and cure for this dreadful disease," said Bekaii-Saab. "Our goal is to eventually develop and run multinational clinical trials for pancreatic cancer in order to develop more effective treatments for pancreatic cancer more quickly."

A key collaborator at Ohio State is Ching-Shih Chen, professor of medicinal chemistry whose research focuses on developing experimental cancer drugs. Another key investigator from Ohio State is Mark Bloomston, associate professor of surgical oncology with a specific interest in the development of biomarkers in pancreas cancer.

The initial support for this international pancreatic cancer research program will amount to at least $ 1.3 million from various sources including NCKU, OSU-James, the government of Taiwan and philanthropic funds. "This will be a tremendous undertaking that will take our program to a new height and will bring us closer to a cure for pancreas cancer", says Bekaii-Saab.

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute strives to create a cancer-free world by integrating scientific research with excellence in education and patient-centered care, a strategy that leads to better methods of prevention, detection and treatment. Ohio State is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and one of only seven centers funded by the NCI to conduct both phase I and phase II clinical trials. The NCI recently rated Ohio State's cancer program as "exceptional," the highest rating given by NCI survey teams. As the cancer program's 210-bed adult patient-care component, The James is a "Top Hospital" as named by the Leapfrog Group and one of the top cancer hospitals in the nation as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

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Click here for a high-quality photograph of Dr. Tanios Bekaii-Saab.

Contact: Eileen Scahill, Wexner Medical Center Public Affairs and Media Relations, 614-293-3737, or Eileen.Scahill@osumc.edu

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