Cutting Fuel Supply to Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team - Stand Up To Cancer

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SU2C Pancreatic Dream Team:
Cutting Off the Fuel Supply: A New Approach in the Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer

Grant Term: December 2009−May 2015

Interfering with the nutrients that support the growth of tumor cells has the potential to substantially improve the survival of patients with pancreatic cancer. This SU2C Pancreatic Dream Team is studying how to cut off the “fuel supply” that pancreatic tumors depend on. Of particular interest is whether these tumors require glucose or glutamine to survive, as other cells do. If so, this information can be used to help devise new, more effective therapeutic strategies.

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Cancer of the pancreas is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, with a five-year survival rate of only 8.5%. More than 44,000 people die from pancreatic cancer each year in the United States. New approaches are urgently needed.

The SU2C Pancreatic Dream Team is studying ways to cut off the “fuel supply” that pancreatic tumors need to grow, trying to determine whether pancreatic cancers depend on glutamine instead of glucose for survival, as other cells do. If so, the information can be used to help devise new therapeutic strategies.

The team is also investigating whether agents that hinder the ability of cells to effectively use glutamine hold promise for pancreatic cancer patients. The team is conducting clinical trials on drugs that impair the breakdown of glutamine, such as aminooxyacetate, phenformin, and LDH-A inhibitors.

The breakdown of glucose and glutamine can generate a large amount of metabolic waste and change the stroma, the dense cells surrounding the tumor. Unfortunately, these changes can protect cancer cells from the effects of chemotherapy. Thus, the team tested and was instrumental in FDA approval of a chemotherapy combination, Gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel, to improve the treatment of pancreatic cancer patients.

This Dream Team is also part of the Pancreatic Cancer Collective portfolio of research.


The top scientists and researchers on the SU2C Pancreatic Dream Team come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, which leads them to great insights upon collaboration. Learn more about the SU2C Pancreatic Dream Team.

Dream Team Members

Craig B. Thompson, MD
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Jeffrey A. Drebin, MD, PhD
University of Pennsylvania

Daniel D. Von Hoff, MD
Translational Genomics Research Institute

Chi Van Dang, MD, PhD
Johns Hopkins University
Principal Investigator

Ronald M. Evans, PhD
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Principal Investigator

Daniel A. Laheru, MD
Johns Hopkins University
Principal Investigator

Joshua D. Rabinowitz, MD, PhD
Princeton University
Principal Investigator

Victor E. Velculescu, MD, PhD
Johns Hopkins University
Principal Investigator

Julie Fleshman
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Barton Kamen
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Kerri Kaplan
Lustgarten Foundation

Randall Katz
Milestone Entertainment

Howard Young
General Wholesale Company

“Every single person on this team has lost somebody to pancreatic cancer . . . many of us see patients with it every single day . . . We can do things, we can help with their pain, we can improve their survival some. But we want to do something dramatic.”

Daniel D. Von Hoff, MD
Translational Genomics Research Institute


Stand Up To Cancer’s research projects are designed to foster collaborative, swift translational research. The hallmarks of these efforts include rigorous application and selection procedures, sufficient funding to allow scientists to focus on the objectives of the grant, and reviews by senior scientists every six months. These reviews help the investigators capitalize on the latest findings, address potential roadblocks, and collaboratively evolve as the science requires. Please click below to see summaries of research results so far for the SU2C Pancreatic Dream Team.



Human Primary Liver Cancer–Derived Organoid Cultures for Disease Modeling and Drug Screening
Broutier L, Mastrogiovanni G, Verstegen MM, et al. (2017)
Nat Med 23:1424–1435.
Increased Survival in Pancreatic Cancer with nab-Paclitaxel plus Gemcitabine
Von Hoff DD, Laheru D, et al. (2013)
New England Journal of Medicine 369(18):1691-703.
Human Pancreatic Cancer Tumors Are Nutrient Poor and Tumor Cells Actively Scavenge Extracellular Protein
Drebin JA, Thompson CB, Rabinowitz JD, et al. (2015)
Cancer Research 75(3):544-53.
Clinical Implications of Genomic Alterations in the Tumour and Circulation of Pancreatic Cancer Patients
O’Dwyer P, Thompson CB, Von Hoff DD, Drebin JA, Velculescu VE, et al. (2015)
Nature Communications 6:7686.


Cancer clinical trials allow researchers to study innovative and potentially life-saving new treatments. The goal is to find treatments that are better than what’s currently available; in fact, the therapies offered to today’s cancer patients were almost all studied and made possible by people participating in clinical trials. But many cancer clinical trials aren’t completed because not enough people take part.

At, you’ll find clinical trial information, answers to common questions, and a free clinical trial finder tool.



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