DETROIT — Rafael Fridman, professor in the department of pathology at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine, was awarded the first competitive scientific research grant of $50,000 for his work in pancreatic cancer.
“Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, yet it continues to be radically underfunded,” said Sheila Sky Kasselman, pancreatic cancer survivor and founder of the Sky Foundation Inc, which awarded the grant. “Our mission is to raise funds for research grants to help supplement government funding by providing direct support to scientists who offer new approaches in the prevention and early detection of pancreatic cancer.”
Fridman’s research is looking at how pancreatic cancer cells respond to their microenvironment, specifically how the cells respond to collagen, a major protein that surrounds tumor cells, and collagen can promote tumor growth and interfere with the efficacy of chemotherapy, the foundation officials said. Fridman’s research is focused on disrupting the interaction of pancreatic cancer cells with collagen by targeting a key collagen receptor known as discodin domain receptor that is present in the tumor cells, and receptor signals to the cells, instructing them how to respond to the surrounding collagen, which encourages the cancer cells to grow and to become highly malignant, according to the foundation officials.
Fridman is working at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. for this research., and he and his team will be studying how receptors work when pancreatic cells are growing within collagen and then attempt to block its function to see how this affects the cancer cells, the foundation officials said. In addition, Fridman will study the expression of receptors in human tissues derived from pancreatic cancer patients, and the ultimate goal is to be able to target these receptors and block their function with a specific inhibitor in the hope that this will disrupt the communication between the pancreatic cancer cells with collagen, allowing cancer treatments to be more effective, according to the foundation offiicials.