UTEP to Investigate Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors with $1M NIH Grant
The funding will also support graduate students through tuition assistance, paid research
EL PASO, Texas (Apr. 6, 2022) – The University of Texas at El Paso will undertake potentially transformative research on how specific risk factors promote pancreatic cancer development with support from a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute (NCI).
“Pancreatic cancer is a highly lethal disease,” said Weiqin Lu, Ph.D., a professor in the UTEP School of Pharmacy and the project’s principal investigator. “Chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy are not effective treatments for this strain of the disease. Surgical resection, or removal, is still the most effective treatment, but less than 20% of patients are eligible for surgical treatment.”
According to NCI statistics, only about 11% of patients survive more than five years after being diagnosed.
The NCI grant will support a program Lu established to study the role of obesity and inflammation in the development of oncogenic KRAS (Kirsten rat sarcoma virus)-mediated pancreatic cancer. Approximately 90% of pancreatic cancer patients carry oncogenic KRAS, which is widely regarded as a driving factor for pancreatic cancer development.
“The work Dr. Lu and her colleagues are doing has the potential to be transformative in our search for a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that underlie pancreatic cancer,” said José Rivera, Ph.D., dean of the UTEP School of Pharmacy. “I congratulate them on receiving this extremely competitive award from the NIH.”
Lu’s research suggests that targeted inhibition of NADPH oxidase, a compound found in the cells of many animals and insects, could be a promising preventive and therapeutic strategy for pancreatic cancer.
“This discovery would result in a paradigm change in the understanding of pancreatic cancer if we can prove it in our study,” Lu said. “This research may assist with developing clinical opportunities and strategies that will significantly advance our collective knowledge in this area.”
Funds from the NCI grant will also support graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at UTEP through tuition assistance and paid research opportunities.
“This support will allow us to promote the next generation of investigators and leaders in cancer research,” Lu said.
About The University of Texas at El Paso
The University of Texas at El Paso is America’s leading Hispanic-serving university. Located at the westernmost tip of Texas, where three states and two countries converge along the Rio Grande, 84% of our 24,000 students are Hispanic, and half are the first in their families to go to college. UTEP offers 169 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs at the only open-access, top-tier research university in America.
Last Updated on April 06, 2023 at 12:00 AM | Originally published April 06, 2023
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