LustGarden Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research

Pancreatic Cancer Research

As the largest private funder of pancreatic cancer research, we are relentlessly focused on improving patient outcomes and we are making progress every day. Thanks to separate funding to support administrative expenses, 100 percent of every donation goes directly to research.

Navigating Pancreatic Cancer

We are here to empower you to ask bold questions, seek out the best treatment options, and face the unique challenges of pancreatic cancer head-on. We want to give you the resources and information you need to make informed decisions that are best for you.

Patient Checklist


August 1, 2018 ladmin
As overwhelming as a pancreatic cancer diagnosis is, it is important to act quickly and put a treatment plan into place. Treatment should ideally begin within one month after you receive your diagnosis. Understand your disease. Thoroughly understand what stage of pancreatic cancer you have and inquire about having your blood and tumor genetically sequenced. […]
Lets Win! Pancreatic Cancer

Let’s Win! Pancreatic Cancer

July 20, 2018 ladmin
LET’S WIN! Pancreatic Cancer A Dynamic Way to Share Information Recognizing that there is an urgent need for patients to communicate amongst themselves and with the medical community about potentially life-changing treatments and clinical trials, we are proud to be affiliated with Let’s Win. Let’s Win is an interactive online community where patients and families […]

Pancreatic Cancer Connections

July 7, 2018 ladmin
Pancreatic Cancer Connections is online social community that provides a safe space for pancreatic cancer patients and their loved ones to share their experiences, get valuable coping resources, and support one another. Patients interact with others who are facing a pancreatic cancer and can post questions to the board or message other members privately. This community forum is a valuable resource for patients, caregivers, and their loved ones to refer to at various stages of their treatment and recovery. Patients and loved ones can sign up for Pancreatic Cancer Connections at no cost and will be welcomed into an engaging and supportive community to discuss topics including treatment options, nutrition, and coping with the disease. Pancreatic Cancer Connections is hosted by Inspire, a leading healthcare social network that connects more than 1,000,000 patients and caregivers.

Lustgarten News

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PC Research in the time of COVID-19

Checking in With Our Dedicated Labs

As the COVID pandemic began to hit hard earlier this year, researchers working on pancreatic cancer research for the Lustgarten Foundation scrambled to make sense of how to continue their life-saving research. The four Lustgarten Foundation dedicated pancreatic cancer labsCold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), in Long Island, New York; Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore; MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston—all suddenly shifted staff, resources and planning to stay safe and keep researching.

“We worked day and night to move into a new lab and have split our team into shifts,” said Dennis Plenker, a research investigator with CSHL. Today, the lab has found its new rhythm, he said. “We all come in on the same days, masked. In the new space, we can really spread out. Here we have a lot more space. We all feel safe.”

“What we’re trying to do is grow a patient’s cancer in a dish,” he explained. “Ten years ago, it was grown on plastic in dishes filled with red liquid, like you see in the movies. But today we’re working on an organoid, a 3D model of cells that have a structure. The beauty of this is that it’s very efficient so we hope to do this in real time for a patient, to tell a physician how to treat them, in a sort of personalized medicine. What we think, and what we’re seeing, much more closely resembles the tumor’s biology.”

These organoids—what he calls “a patient in a dish”—will allow physicians much quicker decision-making about which drugs are likely to be most effective, rather than immediately going to first-line treatment, he said.

Dr. Brian Wolpin, an oncologist who treats cancer patients, heads a staff of 14 at his clinic at Harvard, seven in the “wet lab” doing traditional lab work with cells, experimental models and patient samples  and seven in the “dry lab” working with data. “The lab had to close for a couple of months, and no one was allowed in, so we worked from home analyzing data,” he said. Like so many of us, the team also held a lot of Zoom meetings.

“We were doing more reading and writing since the wet lab had to be closed down. Today, we have a schedule and people can be quite productive,” he said. Because his lab is “really linked strongly to the clinic, all biopsies and blood draws were stopped, and clinical trials paused for three to four months.” But “in the long run, [the shutdown] will have had a pretty minor effect” he added.

His lab has two main areas of focus, creating personalized medicines and better understanding who’s at risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The ongoing challenge is that pancreatic cancer cells are initially so few and difficult to detect, so “how do you narrow down those patients who need scans and further evaluation?” Then, “how do you best use those scans for diagnosis rather than waiting for a large tumor?” Unlike other kinds of cancer, he added, “there’s no dominant risk factor, no one thing that’s a main risk. What we’re learning is that pancreatic cancer goes from a very small tumor we can’t even see but gets much larger very quickly. That gives us a narrow window” in which to start effective treatment.

So Dr. Wolpin’s work also means looking backward, when possible, at patient’s CT scans for the five years before a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. ”We’re looking for changes that predate the tumor.” In mouse models, some lose fat tissue and skeletal muscle a year or even 18 months before the disease fully presents, he said.

For Dr. Bert Vogelstein, the pandemic bore truly global implications. His lab at Johns Hopkins Cancer Center in Baltimore is working on CancerSEEK, a blood test able to detect the early presence of pancreatic and seven other types of cancer, which depends upon receiving blood samples safely, reliably and promptly from a team in Melbourne, Australia—a distance of 10,201 miles. Something of a logistical challenge! When his lab closed, those bright green plastic boxes filled with precious cargo had to be delivered to a staffer’s home address each week. Dr. Vogelstein is working with Dr. Peter Gibbs and Jeanne Tie of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

“We’re the only ones who can analyze the blood,” Dr. Vogelstein explained. They’re part of a double-blinded controlled study involving 10 to 12 institutions around the Pacific basin, he said. “We hope in a year or two we can have patients treated on the basis of their blood tests.”

His research focuses on three mutations “that occur over a relatively long period of time” finally resulting in pancreatic cancer. “It takes years for that first mutation to occur and to grow abnormally, but even with one million cells, it can’t be detected and one of those will start a second mutation.” And even with 10 million cells, “it’s still not clinically detectable. The problem is the third mutation. So the challenge is to develop tests that get it early as we now can do with colon and breast cancer,” he said. (Dr. Vogelstein’s lab developed a widely used, non-invasive colon cancer detection method, Cologuard.)

“What we’re looking for is evidence of mutations of cancer in the bloodstream, a few molecules in a sea of blood.” The sooner pancreatic cancer is found, the better chance a patient has of being cured, he said. “We’re trying to convince pharmaceutical companies to support this research because it will make their drugs work better. Suppose you could try a drug because you could do a blood test and detect pancreatic cancer before it appears on CT scans and detects symptoms.”

And at MIT, the restrictions imposed suddenly by the pandemic actually produced a surprising and wholly unexpected benefit, said Dr. William A. Freed-Pastor. “We made some really exciting progress,” he said, by working with a computational biologist, someone well-versed in biology and also computer science. “We created a computational pipeline and studied different aspects of the disease that haven’t been studied before. We never had the time to do this pre-COVID.”

Since “we were all stuck at home, we could collaborate by Zoom because the normal limiting thing for us is time. Our bandwidth is normally so stretched that adding anything new like this would have been difficult. Now that model is built and is running data. We’ll be using it for an exploratory analysis for 58 patients in a potential upcoming trial.”

Dr. Freed-Pastor, heartened by the tremendous collaboration and urgency that COVID has added to everyone’s workload, said: “When the need is so pressing and so in front of you—as COVID has been this year—the goal is way bigger than any of us. That mindset? I hope we can keep it up!”

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New Fellowships Honor Icons of Civil & Gender Rights

PROGRAM INFORMATION Each year, more than 45,000 Americans are lost to pancreatic cancer—parents, grandparents, siblings, children, friends and other beloved members of our communities. And because pancreatic cancer does not discriminate, it also claims the lives of national figures whose loss is felt not only by their immediate family members and friends but by the entire country and even around the world. Unfortunately, 2020 saw the loss of two such figures to pancreatic cancer: Civil Rights icon and 17-term Georgia Congressman John Lewis on Friday, July 17 and Equal Rights champion and longtime U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday, Sept. 18.

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We’re Still Walking … Virtually

Walking on behalf of the Lustgarten Foundation has never been easier, as we have decided all remaining 2020 walks and community events will be virtual! To get started, check out our list of walks and events or search by location, then choose the one that works for you. Already registered? Fantastic! The only thing left to do is to fundraise and, if you’re up for it, recruit additional walkers. What’s a virtual walk? Glad you asked! Simply put, a virtual walk is a symbolic, online fundraising event. Just register for the virtual walk of your choice, then, on the day and time of your chosen event, wear purple and take a walk on your own or with a small group of family and friends.

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Pancreatic Cancer News

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Ongoing Studies Could Modify the Script in Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer

15. 10. 20 ladmin
Clinical trials should not be viewed as a last resort for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer, explained Allyson Ocean, MD, who added that even frontline standards of care should be considered after exhausting all available study options. “There are plenty of clinical trials available for your patients. Clinical trials should always be the first consideration […]

New Radiation Therapy Helps Treat Inoperable Pancreatic Cancer

14. 10. 20 ladmin
Pancreatic cancer is a serious and often fatal disease, but a September study published in Practical Radiation Oncology explores a new advancement in radiation therapy that may provide a better treatment option for some patients. Along with his colleagues, Michael Chuong, MD, study author and a board-certified radiation oncologist with the Miami Cancer Institute, studied 35 […]

Weight-Loss Surgery May Cut Pancreatic Cancer Risk in People With Diabetes

12. 10. 20 ladmin
Weight-loss surgery significantly reduces the risk of pancreatic cancer in obese people with diabetes, a new study finds. For the study, the researchers analyzed 20 years of data from 1.4 million people, including more than 10,000 who’d had weight-loss surgery. About three-quarters of those who had weight-loss surgery were women. People who’d had weight-loss surgery […]

Single-cell RNA sequencing reveals details about individual cells in pancreatic tumors

30. 9. 20 ladmin
Led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope, and by HonorHealth Research and Innovation Institute, an international team of researchers have described in detail the individual cells that comprise the pancreatic cancer microenvironment, a critical step in devising new treatment options for patients with this aggressive and difficult-to-treat disease. […]

Cancer Projects to Diversify Genetic Research Receive New Grants

11. 9. 20 ladmin
The New York Genome Center awarded six cancer research grants this week as part of an initiative examining the role of race and ethnicity in major types of cancer. The projects will investigate a variety of cancers including pancreatic, colorectal and endometrial cancer in African-Americans; lung cancer in Asian-American patients; breast and prostate cancer in […]

New pancreatic cancer treatment may add years to the lives of those facing death

10. 9. 20 ladmin
She had been dealing with digestive problems for a while, but they were getting worse. It wasn’t until her daughter noticed a pamphlet sitting on a doctors’ office waiting room table that 74-year-old de Armas asked for a more thorough examination. One CT scan later, on her 53rd wedding anniversary, de Armas was diagnosed with […]

UH researcher discovers susceptibility genes for pancreatic cancer

10. 9. 20 ladmin
Six novel susceptibility genes for pancreatic cancer risk have been identified by University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center researcher Lang Wu. The study was published in Cancer Research by the American Association for Cancer Research. “Our discovery of novel candidate susceptibility genes associated with pancreatic cancer will allow us to better understand the biology and genetics of this deadly malignancy, and help us […]

Sortilin may hold the key to combat pancreatic cancer more effectively

20. 8. 20 ladmin
Pancreatic cancer has an extremely poor prognosis; it is the third most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States. In a novel study published in The American Journal of Pathology, published by Elsevier, scientists report the discovery of an increased level of the neuroprotein sortilin in pancreatic cancer cells that may open up […]

Diabetes increases risk for pancreatic cancer, study finds

13. 8. 20 ladmin
Older adults with diabetes are nearly three times as likely to develop pancreatic cancer than the general population, according to an analysis published Thursday by JAMA Oncology. The link between diabetes and pancreatic cancer increases to seven-fold for people with the relatively rare Type 3C diabetes, which is caused by pancreatic conditions, the researchers said. The […]

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