UTHSC Scientists Join the Race Against Pancreatic Cancer

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Members of the UTHSC Pancreatic Cancer Research Team and their families are all smiles at the 2018 Kick It 5K sponsored by the Kosten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Support. This year’s race to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research and outreach is set for April 7. (Photo by Don Perry)

Once a year, pancreatic cancer researchers at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center step outside the lab and help to beat cancer with their feet.

The scientists on the Pancreatic Cancer Research Team led by Subhash Chauhan, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, take part in the Kick It 5K, the largest fundraiser for the Kosten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Support.

The 2019 Kick It 5K will be April 7 at 1 p.m. in Shelby Farms Park. The event includes the 5K run, a 1-mile fun walk, Spirit Runners, a survivor ceremony, entertainment, and refreshments. Register at kickit5k.racesonline.com.

Many of those conducting the pancreatic cancer research at UTHSC are funded by the Kosten Foundation. All of their research is done in The Dermon II Family and Herb Kosten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Center, which was established on campus through a $200,000 grant from the Kosten Foundation in 2016. The research center moved into new, larger space last fall, filling the entire 6th floor of the Pharmacy Building.

Sheema Khan, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and a scientist in the pancreatic cancer research center, wouldn’t miss the race for the world. She’s participated in it every year since she moved to Memphis to join the center in 2014, missing only 2017, when she was pregnant with her daughter, Alvina. Even then, she volunteered and participated at a Spirit Runner.

“It’s a fantastic experience,” Dr. Khan said. “It’s a privilege and honor to do this race. This is something we want to be part of because the Kosten Foundation is also helping us with funding for our research. And due to this race, we are very much empowered to continue advancing research.”

In 2018, the Kosten Foundation awarded the UTHSC research team $300,000 to go toward early detection research and development of novel therapeutics for the disease. Pancreatic cancer is the third-deadliest form of cancer and one of the most difficult diseases to diagnose, primarily because there are no definitive symptoms. It is difficult to manage because there are few therapeutic options.

The Kosten Foundation was founded in 2003 by the family of Memphian Herb Kosten, who died from pancreatic cancer. The foundation has raised nearly $2 million for pancreatic cancer research, and hosts a monthly support group for patients, their families, and anyone interested in learning more about pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Khan estimates about 50 people related to the research team will participate in the 2019 race in some form, whether by running, walking, or promoting it with posters and flyers, or just by word-of-mouth.

“We all participate, including the spouses, the kids, friends, families,” she said.  “We always do our best to encourage people.”

This year, Dr. Khan’s 17-month-old daughter may the youngest participant in the 1-mile event. Dr. Khan is expecting a second baby in September, but she’ll be there, holding Alvina’s hand as they walk the route together.

“It’s really an honor doing the race for a cause we all are fighting for,” she said.

(Video Courtesy Morris Marketing)