UC San Diego Health Researchers Join Pancreatic Cancer “Dream Team”

November 10, 2015

International effort will seek to develop and test new therapies for deadly malignancy —

In an effort to advance research on one of the deadliest forms of cancer, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researchers Andrew Lowy, MD, and Tannishtha Reya, PhD, have been recruited for their expertise in preclinical modeling, clinical trials and stem cell biology to join a “dream team” of international pancreatic cancer researchers.

The three-year, $12-million effort, sponsored by Stand Up To Cancer, Cancer Research UK and The Lustgarten Foundation, will pursue a three-pronged strategy to better understand and reset so-called “super-enhancers” that may be abnormally active in pancreatic tumors. Super-enhancers are bits of DNA that can cause over-expression of genetic signals, fueling cancer cell growth. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Tannishtha Reya, PhD, is Professor of Pharmacology in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Professor of Medicine in the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Nanospheres Safely Deliver High Chemotherapy Doses in Response to Tumor Secretions

Scientists have designed nanoparticles that release drugs in the presence of a class of proteins that enable cancers to metastasize. That is, they have engineered a drug delivery system so that the very enzymes that make cancers dangerous could instead guide their destruction.

“We can start with a small molecule and build that into a nanoscale carrier that can seek out a tumor and deliver a payload of drug,” said Cassandra Callmann, a graduate student in chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego, and first author of the report published in the journal Advanced Materials July 14. …Read the full story from the UC San Diego News Center

New Biomarkers Might Help Personalize Metastatic Colorectal Cancer Treatment

Low levels of two genes predicts positive response to chemotherapy and longer survival times —

Metastatic colorectal cancer patients tend to live longer when they respond to the first line of chemotherapy their doctors recommend. To better predict how patients will respond to chemotherapy drugs before they begin treatment, researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine conducted a proof-of-principle study with a small group of metastatic colorectal cancer patients. The results, published June 17 in PLOS ONE, revealed two genes that could help physicians make more informed treatment decisions for patients with this disease. …Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom

Paul Fanta, MD, MS

Paul Fanta, MD, MS

Senior author of the study is Department of Medicine oncologist Paul Fanta, MD, MS, Health Sciences associate clinical professor in the Division of Hematology-Oncology. Dr. Fanta is a researcher in the Solid Tumor Therapeutics Program at the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

Read the article in PLOS ONE (Open Access)

How DNA Damage Affects Golgi – The Cell’s Shipping Department

In studying the impact of DNA damage on the Golgi, a research team from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research have discovered a novel pathway activated by DNA damage, with important consequences for the body’s cellular response to chemotherapy. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego News Center


Dr. Seth FieldStudy principal investigator Seth J. Field, MD, PhD, is associate professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Visit Dr. Field’s Laboratory Website

Citation for the study report in Cell: Suzette E. Farber-Katz, Holly C. Dippold, Matthew D. Buschman, Marshall C. Peterman, Mengke Xing, Christopher J. Noakes, John Tat, Michelle M. Ng, Juliati Rahajeng, David M. Cowan, Greg J. Fuchs, Huilin Zhou, Seth J. Field, DNA Damage Triggers Golgi Dispersal via DNA-PK and GOLPH3, Cell, Volume 156, Issue 3, 30 January 2014, Pages 413-427, ISSN 0092-8674. Summary | Full text (UCSD only)

Blacks Have Less Access to Cancer Specialists, Treatment

UC San Diego Study Suggests Racial Inequality Leads to Higher Mortality

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine say metastatic colorectal cancer patients of African-American descent are less likely to be seen by cancer specialists or receive cancer treatments. This difference in treatment explains a large part of the 15 percent higher mortality experienced by African-American patients than non-Hispanic white patients. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego News Center


Department of Medicine co-investigators on the project are Samir Gupta, MD, MSCS, associate professor of clinical medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology; Gregory Heestand, MD, Health Sciences assistant clinical professor in the Division of Hematology-Oncology and Paul Fanta, MD, MS, Health Sciences associate clinical professor in the Division of Hematology-Oncology.

Samir Gupta, MD, MSCS  Gregory Heestand, MD  Paul Fanta, MD, MS
Above, from left: Drs. Samir Gupta, Gregory Heestand, and Paul Fanta

Citation for the study report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute:

Daniel R. Simpson, María Elena Martínez, Samir Gupta, Jona Hattangadi-Gluth, Loren K. Mell, Gregory Heestand, Paul Fanta, Sonia Ramamoorthy, Quynh-Thu Le, and James D. Murphy. Racial Disparity in Consultation, Treatment, and the Impact on Survival in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst first published online November 14, 2013 doi:10.1093/jnci/djt318  |  Full text (UCSD only)

UCSD-based Cancer Consortium Receives 5-Year, $20 Million Grant Renewal

NCI funding continues work focused on chronic lymphocytic leukemia  

An international consortium of scientists studying chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), based at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, has been awarded a 5-year, $20 million grant by the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. The grant is the second renewal of funding for a broad-based effort designed to better understand the pathology of CLL – the most common form of leukemia in the Western world – and develop new drugs and treatments. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. Thomas KippsDr. Thomas Kipps heads the Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Research Consortium (CRC), the eight-member international body receiving the grant. Thomas Kipps, MD, PhD, is professor of medicine, Evelyn and Edwin Tasch Chair in Cancer Research, and director of the Clinical Trials Office and deputy director of research at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

Progression of Lung Fibrosis Blocked in Mouse Model

Study points to a phosphorylation pathway that may contribute to the development of lung injury and fibrosis

A study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine may lead to a way to prevent the progression, or induce the regression, of lung injury that results from use of the anti-cancer chemotherapy drug Bleomycin… Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


The study investigators are Drs. Martina Buck and Mario Chojkier of the Division of Gastroenterology in the Department of Medicine and the Biomedical Sciences Program at UC San Diego and the VA San Diego Healthcare System. Martina Buck, PhD, is associate professor of medicine and Mario Chojkier, MD, is professor of medicine. | Read the report online in PLoS ONE

Plasticity of Hormonal Response Permits Rapid Gene Expression Reprogramming

Gene expression reprogramming may allow cancer cell growth as well as normal differentiation

Gene expression is the process of converting the genetic information encoded in DNA into a final gene product such as a protein or any of several types of RNA. Scientists have long thought that the gene programs regulated by different physiological processes throughout the body are robustly pre-determined and relatively fixed for every specialized cell. But a new study by researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine reveals the unsuspected plasticity of some of these gene expression programs. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

M. Geoffrey Rosenfeld, MD

Co-principal investigator of the study is Dr. M. Geoffrey Rosenfeld (pictured at left). M. Geoffrey Rosenfeld, MD, is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

Department of Medicine coauthor Christopher K. Glass, MD, PhD, is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism and Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

Read the published study in Nature (free full text).

Drs. Wang and Kolodner Find a Key to Cisplatin Resistance

Why are some patients resistant to cisplatin chemotherapy for cancer?

A clue has come from a study released this month by Drs. Jean Wang, Richard Kolodner, and colleagues.

In patients who receive cisplatin therapy, their own DNA mismatch protein PMS2 normally plays a key role in helping the drug destroy the cancer cells.

There are a dozen variations of human PMS2, and Drs. Wang and Kolodner have found that cisplatin’s antitumor effects are blocked when one particular PMS2 variant is active.

Read the full story
from UC San Diego
Health Sciences Communications

Read the scientific
report in PNAS

The findings pave the way for further studies to confirm this discovery and apply it to the challenge of selecting the best chemotherapy regimen for each patient.

Jean Y. J. Wang, Ph.D., is Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Associate Director of Basic Research at the Moores UCSD Cancer Center.

Richard Kolodner, Ph.D., is Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Leader of the Cancer Genetics Program at the Moores UC San Diego Cancer Center, and Executive Director for Laboratory Science and Technology at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.

Earlier this year, Dr. Kolodner was honored with election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (AAAS).

Drs. Wang and Kolodner are faculty members in the Division of Hematology-Oncology.

Their report was published online September 3, and in print in the September 16 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

Marinovic-Terzic I, Yoshioka-Yamashita A, Shimodaira H, Avdievich E, Hunton IC, Kolodner RD, Edelmann W, and Wang JYJ. Apoptotic function of human PMS2 compromised by the nonsynonymous single-nucleotide polymorphic variant R20Q. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 2008; 105:13993-13998.  |  Read the report (PDF)

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