University of Pennsylvania announced that Ben Z. Stanger, MD, PhD, associate professor of gastroenterology in the Perelman School of Medicine, has been appointed director of the Penn Pancreatic Cancer Research Center.
Additionally, Gregory Beatty, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Hematology/Oncology, has been appointed director of translational research for the PCRC, and Ursina Teitelbaum, MD, associate professor of Hematology/Oncology, has been appointed clinical director, according to a press release.
Stanger previously served as PCRC’s scientific director, and will replace the center’s founding director Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, who now serves as director of the Abramson Cancer Center.
Stanger earned his MD and a PhD in genetics from Harvard Medical School, and completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. In addition, he completed a research and clinical fellowship in gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a research fellowship in molecular biology at Harvard University, where he worked as an instructor from 2003 to 2006 before coming to Penn.
His research primarily focuses on cellular and molecular mechanisms of pancreatic and liver cancer metastasis, and his lab has traced the lineage of pancreatic cells during tumor development by introducing a fluorescent protein into the genes of cancer-prone mice.
“They track these fluorescent cells as they acquire added cancerous features and metastasize to other organs,” according to the press release. “Their goal is to use this method to understand how tumor cells spread and to learn what makes each individual tumor distinct in order to deliver individualized treatments to patients.”
With an emphasis on personalized medicine, the PCRC’s multidisciplinary team includes oncologists, surgeons, gastroenterologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, and radiologists, who care for patients and perform research on causes, prevention and possible cures for pancreatic cancer.
Current research efforts include “understanding the molecular mechanisms of metastasis; defining the barriers to effective anti-cancer immunotherapy; developing new strategies for targeting the tumor stroma to make chemotherapy more effective; how responses to changes in oxygen availability impact development of disease; developing three-dimensional culture methods for more precise modeling of the tumor environment; and searching for new biomarkers of early forms of the disease,” according to the press release. The center also “maintains a portfolio of clinical trials to improve survival and quality of life for patients at all stages of the disease.”