Sita Kugel, PhD, a scientist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, received an NCI award that will fund her laboratory’s research into an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer.
The MERIT grant will provide Kugel with $400,000 per year for 5 years. She will have an opportunity to extend the grant for 2 additional years.
The award will help her quest to better understand quasi-mesenchymal pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
“There is a clear unmet need for developing our understanding of this subset, as well as novel therapies,” Kugel said in a Fred Hutch announcement. “This source of stable funding will allow my laboratory to explore the biology of pancreatic cancer in greater depth and take on higher-risk, higher-reward projects.”
Fewer than 10% of patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma survive 5 years after diagnosis. The quasi-mesenchymal pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma subtype has the poorest prognosis.
Kugel’s research will focus on SIRT6, a protein that makes molecular modifications to DNA packaging proteins that vary based on whether genes are turned off or on.
Her prior research showed SIRT6 levels are reduced among patients with quasi-mesenchymal pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. She hopes to determine how SIRT6 is lost and how this may contribute to development of this subtype.
“All subsets of pancreatic cancer are treated with toxic chemotherapy, resulting in poor prognosis,” Kugel said in the announcement. “Changing the current clinical paradigm will allow us to provide specific patients with targeted therapies [that] are likely to be both more effective and have fewer side effects, thus potentially improving quality of life and survival.”