A Timeline of Pancreatic Cancer Research Milestones

Led by Lustgarten

Prior to the founding of the Lustgarten Foundation, fewer than 15 principal investigators nationally studied pancreatic cancer and public funding for pancreatic cancer research was less than .05% of available federal funding for cancer research. We have made and continue to make momentous strides to transform pancreatic cancer into a curable disease.


The Lustgarten Foundation is established in honor of Marc Lustgarten. The average life expectancy for stage IV pancreatic cancer patients is less than six months; the five-year survival rate is less than 4%.


Lustgarten awards $3 million in its inaugural round of pancreatic cancer research grants.


Michael Goggins, MD, who had just joined the Johns Hopkins faculty with an interest in developing tests to improve the early detection of pancreas cancer, receives a $300,000 award helping to launch his pancreatic cancer research career.


Elizabeth Jaffee, MD, receives a $700,000 grant to progress her important work in immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer at Johns Hopkins.


The National Cancer Institute (NCI) convenes the first Pancreatic Cancer Progress Review Group. Lustgarten plays a key role in developing the national agenda for pancreatic cancer research.


David Tuveson, MD, PhD, develops the first mouse model of pancreatic cancer. This model remains in use today to test new pancreatic cancer therapies


Researchers begin using a combination of screening technologies—CT scan and endoscopic imaging—to screen for pancreatic tumors in patients with a strong family history or genetic predisposition to pancreatic cancer. The goal is to identify cancers at early stages so they can be removed surgically and are potentially curable.


Lustgarten creates a phase III research project with the NCI to support the Cancer of the Pancreas Screening (CAPS) study, led by Marcia Canto, MD, at Johns Hopkins. CAPS is the first multi-center national study to detect pancreatic cancer and its precursor lesions among individuals with an inherited risk for pancreatic cancer.


Bert Vogelstein, MD, completes the Pancreatic Cancer Genome Project, funded by Lustgarten. This is the most comprehensive genetic sequencing for any cancer. The findings shed new light on the genetic complexity of pancreatic cancers, but also present many potential targets for new cancer treatments. The project is a Science Magazine Top Three “Breakthroughs of the Year.”


A new study, published in Nature, shows many pancreatic tumors don’t become lethal until nearly 20 years after the first genetic changes appear, suggesting an opportunity for earlier diagnosis.


Research published in The New England Journal of Medicine shows as compared with gemcitabine, FOLFIRINOX was associated with a survival advantage. FOLFIRINOX becomes an option for the treatment of patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer and good performance status.


The Lustgarten Foundation establishes the Lustgarten Advancing Breakthrough Science (LABS) Program funding the Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The lab is led by David Tuveson, MD, PhD, who also takes the role as the Foundation’s Chief Scientist. In the years since establishing the program, Lustgarten has funded additional LABS at MIT, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Salk Institute and two at Johns Hopkins.


A large phase III trial shows that treatment with the combination of two chemotherapy drugs—Abraxane and gemcitabine—is more effective than standard single-drug therapy for people with metastatic pancreatic cancer. This combination becomes the new standard of care as first-line treatment for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer.


Ipsen’s Onivyde® (irinotecan liposome injection) is approved by the FDA as a second-line treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer patients who previously received gemcitabine.


Let’s Win! Pancreatic Cancer, an affiliate of the Lustgarten Foundation, creates a novel website enabling a community of doctors, scientists and patients to share important information to help patients find support, treatment options and available clinical trials.


Merck’s Keytruda® (pembrolizumab) is approved by the FDA as the first immunotherapy for microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) solid tumors. Lustgarten was a key funder of this important research. A small subset of pancreas cancer patients have MSI-H tumors and may be eligible for this medicine.


Bert Vogelstein, MD, and his team at Johns Hopkins publish research in Science demonstrating two-thirds of cancer-causing mutations are random, unpredictable DNA copying “mistakes.” The remaining one-third of cases can be attributed to heredity or environmental factors, such as smoking and obesity.


Building on a robust 5-year collaboration jointly funding more than 170 investigators who have started or completed 22 clinical trials, the Lustgarten Foundation and Stand Up To Cancer establish a formal strategic partnership, the Pancreatic Cancer Collective to drive research to improve outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients.


Funded by the Lustgarten Foundation and published in Cancer Discovery, the Tuveson Laboratory demonstrates pancreatic cancer organoids can predict therapeutic responses and facilitate precision medicine for patients with pancreatic cancer.


Research published in The New England Journal of Medicine demonstrates treatment with modified FOLFIRINOX after pancreatic cancer surgery (adjuvant therapy) increases the time patients remain disease-free and overall survival compared with gemcitabine.


FDA grants Breakthrough Device Designation for CancerSEEK, a liquid biopsy, for pancreatic and ovarian cancers—recognizing the unmet need for detection of these cancers and potentially speeding the availability of the test to patients. Lustgarten is a longtime funder of this research.


James Allison, PhD, and Tasuka Honjo, MD, PhD, win the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for establishing an entirely new and potentially curative treatment strategy for cancer. Pioneers in the field of immunoncology, they win for demonstrating different strategies for inhibiting the brakes on the immune system.


Elizabeth Jaffee, MD, Deputy Director, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins and Co-Director, the Gastrointestinal Cancers Program is appointed Lustgarten’s Chief Medical Advisor. A renowned immunotherapy researcher, Dr. Jaffee is leading the Foundation’s efforts to move new therapies from the lab to patients in the clinic.


The FDA approves Astra Zeneca’s Lynparza® (olaparib), for the maintenance treatment of patients with changing germline BRCA-mutated (BRCA1 or BRCA2) metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma, whose disease has not progressed on at least 16 weeks of a first-line platinum- based chemotherapy regimen.


The FDA approves the BRACAnalysis CDx test (Myriad Genetic Laboratories, Inc.) as a companion diagnostic for the selection of patients with pancreatic cancer for treatment with olaparib based on the identification of germline mutations.


Lustgarten-funded researchers at Johns Hopkins, led by Elliot Fishman, MD, demonstrate computers can be trained to detect pancreatic tumors in CT scans, the first milestone toward employing artificial intelligence for earlier detection. Dr. Fishman’s work is reported in the American Journal of Roentgenology.


Lustgarten launches the Dr. Robert F. Vizza Clinical Accelerator Initiative to employ cutting-edge biomarkers, shorten the time from clinical trial concept to trial launch and move therapies quickly from the lab to patients


The COMPASS study, published in Nature Genetics, analyzes the molecular subtypes of pancreatic cancer and identifies distinct subtypes of the disease with unique molecular properties that open new avenues for therapeutic development. The findings of this study are the building blocks for the Foundation’s ongoing PASS* (01) Trial. The trial employs organoids—3D models of an individual patient’s tumor—that can be grown in the lab, where multiple treatments can be tested on them.

* Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma Signature Stratification for Treatment


Exact Sciences acquires Thrive Earlier Detection Corp., founded to commercialize CancerSEEK , a blood test capable of detecting multiple cancers, including pancreatic, early. Exact Sciences is developing new technologies to improve the test’s accuracy before beginning an 80,000-person registration trial seeking FDA approval.


Immunovia, Inc. receives approval to begin patient testing for the IMMray® PanCan-d test, the first blood test on the market dedicated solely to the early detection of pancreatic cancer. The test is currently available in all states, except for NY, RI, MD, PA, and CA, and is intended only for individuals who are at high risk for developing familial or hereditary pancreatic cancer.


NCI SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program) data shows the survival rate for pancreatic cancer has more than doubled since 1998 to 10% today.


Salk Institute becomes Foundation’s sixth member of the Lustgarten Advancing Breakthrough Science (LABS) Program. Funded by a $5 million grant, the Salk Dedicated Program in Pancreatic Cancer will focus on potential targets for new pancreatic cancer drugs.


The Lustgarten Foundation awarded $5 million to Break Through Cancer for the Conquering KRAS in Pancreatic Cancer project. Because mutated KRAS genes are present in 90% of pancreatic cancers, researchers believe the protein has the potential to be a game-changing path to new treatments. Led by Tyler Jacks, PhD, director of the Lustgarten Lab at MIT, Break Through Cancer brings together researchers from the nation’s top five cancer research centers to tackle the most challenging cancers.

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