Cancer Research Collaboration of Excellence for Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer Research Collaboration of Excellence

The Pancreatic Cancer Research Collaboration of Excellence was established in November 2018. It boasts a multidisciplinary team of outstanding researchers from five K-State departments and several specialized laboratories as well as the University of Kansas Cancer Center. The collaboration is led by Punit Prakash, associate professor of electrical & computer engineering.

Major goals:

  • to develop liquid biopsy early-detection methods that enable inexpensive, frequent and routine testing for onset or recurrence of pancreatic cancer
  • to develop new drug therapies using cutting-edge chemical synthesis and characterization methods, expert nanotechnology, state-of-the-art in-vitro experimentation and ultra-high-field MRI methods

Focus areas:

Principal Investigator
Punit Prakash, associate professor of electrical & computer engineering

Cancer Detection
Led by Jun Li, professor of chemistry

Pancreatic cancer has unfavorable biologic features that have to be discovered early to have any chance for successful treatment with the current standard of care. To date, these tumors are rarely diagnosed early because of their short lead times of a couple of months to two years. For these cases, inexpensive screening methods have to be developed to permit frequent routine tests for the onset or recurrence of cancer. Liquid biopsies based on tumor-specific/highly selective alterations of the proteome show promise in this area. This collaboration will develop two cutting-edge detection methods for profiling pancreatic cancer overexpressed proteases.

Drug Discovery
Led by Duy Hua, university distinguished professor of chemistry

The proteolytic network is dysfunctional in tumors, contributing to tumor survival, angiogenesis, invasion, and, in pancreatic cancer, to desmoplasia. In order to enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy against pancreatic cancer, this center will develop novel combination drug therapies comprised of protease blockers for ADAM 10 and cathepsin B, together with either FDA-approved pancreatic cancer drugs or chemical variations of FDA-approved drugs.

Virus-related studies
Led by Nicholas Wallace, associate professor of biology

The Wallace Lab is testing compounds generated by the Hua Lab to identify drugs that will be effective at killing pancreatic cancer cells with minimal toxicity to other cells. They use next-generation sequencing, immunoblotting, immunofluorescence microscopy, and toxicity assays to compare how cell culture models of pancreatic cancer respond to the compounds. They also use computational approaches to examine pancreatic cancer biology and identify biomarkers and signaling defects in order to improve detection and treatment. Their longterm goal is to identify new treatments and diagnostics that can improve outcomes for people battling pancreatic cancer.

In-Vivo Testing and MRI
Led by

The collaboration will evaluate tumor growth with classic methods as well as with ultra-high-field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in K-State's Chemistry Core Instrumentation Facility. Advanced MRI methods will enable to quantify the growth of tumor and stromal regions, (micro)metastases and (micro)vasculature in response to chemotherapy.

Other Scientists and Partners


Progress Reports

To exemplify the Johnson Cancer Research Center’s expectation of comprehensive research plans and goals for Cancer Research Collaborations of Excellence, we are publishing the progress reports from the Pancreatic CRCE. Questions about this report or CRCE expectations should be directed to the JCRC director.

CRCE for Pancreatic Cancer Progress Report 2019 (pdf)

CRCE for Pancreatic Cancer Progress Report 2020 (pdf)

CRCE for Pancreatic Cancer Progress Report 2021 (pdf)

In the News

News Release - Kansas State University launches Center of Excellence for Pancreatic Cancer Research - November 19, 2018

KSU Foundation's 'Good for K-State' magazine feature - "A big step in cancer detection" - Summer 2019