Establishing a comprehensive research strategy to improve pancreatic cancer survival

A team led by Dr Steven Gallinger is leveraging existing resources to create a comprehensive pancreatic cancer research program focused on screening, earlier detection, better understanding of the disease biology, and facilitating the introduction of new therapies and personalized treatments to improve survival for one of the deadliest cancers.

In Canada, almost 7,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year, but on average, only 10% of them will be alive 5 years after their diagnosis. The inability to meaningfully improve survival has been attributed to late-stage diagnosis and rapid spread of pancreatic cancer, combined with resistance to chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy. But detecting this cancer earlier, when it’s easier to treat, could change outcomes.  

With support from the Canadian Cancer Society, this multidisciplinary research team, including clinicians, scientists and family/patient partners, is working to increase survival for pancreatic cancer by taking a multi-pronged approach and building on previous successes to drive progress. The team plans to establish a liquid-biopsy (using blood) screening program for high-risk individuals to detect pre-cancerous lesions and early-stage disease. They will sequence the genomes of patient samples to better understand the trajectory of the disease and to identify personalized treatments, including immunotherapy, where applicable. The team is also generating cell models (organoids) that mimic patient tumours. These are being used to screen drug libraries to match patients with specific treatments based on the response detected in the organoid. Patients may also be matched to on-going clinical trials based on the results of genomic sequencing. 

As leaders in pancreatic cancer research in Canada, the team is poised to leverage past successes and existing infrastructure to unravel the complexities of pancreatic cancer, beginning in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. The overall aim of the project is to accelerate the translation of pre-clinical findings to the next generation of patient-centred clinical trials, increasing survival for people with pancreatic cancer. 

Total Amount Awarded over 5 years: $ 7,500,000

Team Members

Principal Investigator
  • Steven Gallinger, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
Co-Principal Investigators
  • Robert Grant, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
  • Hartland Jackson, Mount Sinai Hospital
  • Jennifer J Knox, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
  • Faiyaz Notta, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre - UHN
  • Daniel Renouf, BC Cancer Agency (Vancouver)
  • George Zogopoulos, The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC)
  • Ali Hosni Abdalaty, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
  • Nick Bansback, University of British Columbia
  • Dwayne Barber, University of Toronto
  • Kelvin Chan, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
  • Shoukat Dedhar, BC Cancer Research Institute
  • Barbara T. Grünwald, University Health Network
  • Armand Keating, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
  • Rama Khokha, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre - UHN
  • Christopher Mueller, Queen's University
  • Stuart Peacock, BC Cancer Agency (Vancouver)
  • Christopher Pin, Western University
  • John Ronald, Western University
  • David Schaeffer, University of British Columbia
  • Erica Tsang, University of British Columbia
Patients, Survivors and Caregivers
  • Pierre Hurteau
  • Libby Znaimer, ZoomerMedia

Team Geography

Team members from 3 provinces