Evan S. Glazer, MD, PhD, FACS, assistant professor in the Division of Surgical Oncology and the Department of Surgery in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has been awarded $100,000 from the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract (SSAT) to study a protein’s role in pancreatic cancer progression. The award comes through the organization’s Career Development Award, which establishes young faculty members as basic or clinical scientific investigators in digestive diseases.
The SSAT is a global community of nearly 2,700 gastrointestinal surgeons advancing research, innovation, and advocacy to benefit interdisciplinary patient care Its mission is to lead in advancing the science, and practice of gastrointestinal surgery.
Pancreatic cancer is one of deadliest and most difficult cancers to treat. It is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths. In a few years, it expected to be the second-leading cause of cancer related deaths, preceded only by lung cancer.
Dr. Glazer’s laboratory investigates how pancreatic cancer changes the immune cells in cancer and the role of a specific protein, transforming growth factor beta (TGF-B), in making pancreatic cancer worse.
This grant, with support from UTHSC and Methodist University Hospital, will allow Dr. Glazer to examine living pancreatic cancer tissue from patients. “When I remove pancreatic cancer, there is often excess tissue that is not needed to treat the patient,” Dr. Glazer said. “I use it in my laboratory to study the pancreatic cancer cells and immune cells with many treatments and develop better treatments with living cancer tissue. This research can only be done with excess patient tumors, so I am eternally grateful for the patients who are willing to let me study their tumors and develop better therapies.”
According to Dr. Glazer, the treatment for pancreatic cancer has not dramatically changed in the past 30 years. “Techniques for surgical resection have improved, but the standard chemotherapies have not dramatically changed,” he said. “At the same time, many other cancers have many new treatments. The most common new treatment is to activate the immune system to attack cancer, which does not work for pancreatic cancer at the moment. No one knows precisely why, but the immune cells around the tumor are different in pancreatic cancer compared to other cancers such as melanoma, kidney cancer, or lung cancer.”
The title of Dr. Glazer’s grant is titled, “Role of TGF-beta in Pancreatic Cancer Progression.” It will be funded for two years.