Four Studies Changing the Odds in Pancreas Cancer
Dr. Mandelson has teamed up with Vincent Picozzi, MD, director of the Pancreaticobiliary Cancer Center of Excellence at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (VMFH), other VMFH clinicians, and scientists across the country to improve detection and treatment of pancreas cancer in many ways:
- Improving Early Detection: This project analyzes imaging studies, clinical records and biological data to find patterns that could illuminate warning signs of pancreas cancer and help detect it earlier.
- Combining Chemotherapy Drugs: Aggressive chemotherapy can be effective for pancreas cancer. But it can have severe side effects that not all patients can tolerate. This research found that alternating between the more and less aggressive treatments could lead to good outcomes with fewer side effects for many patients, including those who are older or have multiple health conditions.
- Using Chemotherapy Before Surgery: Using chemotherapy to shrink tumors and then performing surgery is an effective treatment method in many types of cancer. But because chemotherapy can have severe side effects, the benefits can outweigh the risks. This study dives into whether this approach is effective for pancreas cancer and, if so, in which patients it would work best for.
- Finding Better Treatment Faster: BRI and VMFH are part of an innovative pancreas cancer trial called Precision Promise. This trial uses a Bayesian approach, which tests different therapies in different patients over the same time period. If one treatment isn’t working, they’ll stop testing that treatment. If one looks promising, they’ll put more patients into that group to gather more data faster. This approach helps scientists find the best treatments more efficiently.
Growing Our Cancer Biorepository
VM BRITE was established in 2018 to expand BRI’s cancer research and explore the link between cancer and autoimmunity. Autoimmunity happens when the immune system is too active, while cancer happens when it’s not active enough. Studying both gives us insight into how we can move the immune system closer to just the right amount of activity.
VM BRITE already has samples from more than 800 patients with many types of cancer. Patients also consent to medical record review and share information about their medical history, family history and other information that gives researchers deeper insight into the disease.
Dr. Mandelson hopes to expand this biorepository, in collaboration with BRI investigators and external scientists in academia and industry, gathering more information about long-term health outcomes and survival rates.
“Our goal is to collect more information from patients over time, so we can better understand how they do five, 10, 15 years after treatment,” she says. “This opens up the potential for a much deeper understanding about features of tumor tissue collected through VM BRITE and response to specific treatments.”
She hopes these efforts will ultimately improve the statistics for pancreas and other types of cancer.
“BRI’s collaborative approach and deep understanding of the immune system has the potential to make groundbreaking contributions to cancer and targets for treatment,” Dr. Mandelson says.