a physician a building location a clinical trial a department
menu
BCM - Baylor College of Medicine

Giving life to possible

Surgical Oncology

Research at Elkins Pancreas Center

T cells transduced with a retroviral vector encoding a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) targeting prostate stem cell antigen (PSCA).
credit: Scott Holmes

Researchers at The Elkins Pancreas Center strive to lead the nation in the discovery of effective new treatments for pancreatic cancer. Our robust basic science program has developed several new lines of research this year, attracted $2.3 million dollars in extramural research funding and published our discoveries in over 30 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals. Many of these discoveries have the potential to be translated into new treatments for our patients by the clinical research team.

Just like our clinical care, the theme of our basic science research program is to approach each patient’s cancer as a personal disease. Personalized medicine today and in the future lies in an understanding of the genetic basis of disease. Baylor College of Medicine's top-rated genetics department leads the nation in funding from the National Institutes of Health, and plays a key role in the Human Genome Project, making The Elkins Pancreas Center the best suited location to lead the nation in understanding the genetic basis of pancreatic cancer. The technology for DNA sequencing is advancing at an astounding pace and DNA sequencing as a clinical tool is becoming a reality.

Our team has further developed our focus on immunotherapy for pancreas cancer. We are currently offering patients who have undergone resection of pancreas cancer the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial testing the efficacy of a cancer vaccine. The trial is open and enrolling at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center and Ben Taub Hospital.

Collaboration

Our team has further developed our focus on immunotherapy for pancreas cancer. We are currently offering patients who have undergone resection of pancreas cancer the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial testing the efficacy of a cancer vaccine. The trial is open and enrolling at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center and Ben Taub Hospital.

Ann M. Leen, Ph.D. from the Center of Cell and Gene Therapy has been collaborating with members of the Elkins Pancreas Center to develop an adoptive T cell therapy for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Under an IRB-approved protocol, she has obtained T cells from patients with pancreatic cancer treated at our Center and expanded and modified the cells in the lab. The modified T cells specifically attack and kill pancreatic cancer cells from the same patients in tissue culture. In the near future, we hope to re-infuse the modified T cells back into our patients as a new immunotherapy for pancreas cancer.

Cathy Yao, M.D., Ph.D. has discovered that mesothelin is overexpressed in most pancreatic cancers and this leads to enhanced pancreatic cancer cell adhesion, invasion, migration, and tumor progression in a mouse model. Dr. Yao is working on the signaling mechanisms through which mesothelin causes pancreatic cancer progression. She is also developing a new mesothelin-based pancreas cancer vaccine using a novel approach with virus-like particles. Cathy has already demonstrated that this therapy will initiate a strong immune response and inhibit pancreas cancer growth and prolong survival in mouse models.

Johnny Chen, M.D., Ph.D. is studying mutations and expression of a gene located in an intron called “XIST.” This gene may be important in women who develop pancreas cancer and inhibition of this gene may stop pancreatic cancer growth. .

Marie-Claude Gingras, Ph.D. and Richard Gibbs, Ph.D., in the Human Genome Sequencing Center at BCM are working closely with The Elkins Pancreas Center sequencing the entire exome of 200 pancreas cancers. A personalized genomic approach also offers the potential to tailor treatments to each patient's tumor and reduce adverse reactions from chemotherapy drugs.