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WUSTL Surgeon Named to Pancreatic Cancer Research 'Dream Team'

By Jim Goodwin

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David Linehan, MD

April 8, 2014 – David Linehan, MD, a Washington University surgeon
at the Siteman Cancer Center, was named one of seven principal researchers on a "Dream Team" dedicated to pancreatic cancer research.

Team members will share a three-year, $8 million grant, according to an announcement April 7 at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in San Diego. They will collaborate to develop new therapies that use patients' own immune cells to treat their cancers.

"Leveraging the institutional strengths of Washington University School of Medicine and Siteman Cancer Center in immunology, genetics and translational pancreatic cancer research, we have assembled a local group of collaborators with a proven track record who can make important contributions to this effort," said Linehan, who also is chief of the Section of Hepatobiliary-Pancreatic and Gastrointestinal Surgery and a professor of surgery at the School of Medicine.

"We are sincerely honored and excited to be part of this world-class team of international experts. The goal of the 'Dream Team' is to make a real difference in the lives of patients battling this formidable and deadly disease, and this multi-institution group working together is uniquely poised to advance the field," he added.

Stand Up To Cancer, The Lustgarten Foundation and the Fox Family Cancer Research Funding Trust, along with AACR, Stand Up To Cancer's scientific partner, announced the pancreatic cancer dream team. Members include experts in the fields of immunotherapy, genetics, informatics, biostatistics, regulatory/clinical trials, cancer biology and pathology.

"Pancreatic cancer suppresses the body's antitumor immune response," explained Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who will lead the team. "These tumors do not allow immune cells that can recognize and kill them to even enter the pancreas. We think we can use vaccination to activate antitumor immune cells and then use other agents to get those cells into the pancreas, where they can attack the tumor.

Co-leader Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, of the University of Pennsylvania, is co-leader of the team.

The other principal researchers are:

  • Margaret A. Tempero, MD, University of California, San Francisco;
  • Lisa M. Coussens, PhD, Oregon Health & Science University;
  • Dafna Bar-Sagi, PhD, New York University Langone Medical Center;
  • Irving L. Weissman, MD, Stanford University;
  • Douglas T. Fearon, MD, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom; and
  • Steven D. Leach, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Linehan's local collaborators are:

  • Robert Schreiber, PhD, director of the Center for Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Programs at the School of Medicine, who will run the research project's Immunology Core, and
  • Elaine Mardis, PhD, co-director of The Genome Institute at the School of Medicine, who will run the Genomics Core for the multi-institutional grant.

The Fox Family trust is yet another St. Louis connection to the Dream Team. It was founded by Washington University alum and trustee Sam Fox and his wife, Marilyn.