The Avner Australian Pancreatic Cancer Matrix Atlas group (APMA) will investigate a potential new way to improve immunotherapy outcomes for patients with pancreatic cancer using a class of drug that can reduce the metabolic rewiring of the cancer cells thanks to a grant from The Australian Pancreatic Cancer Foundation (PanKind).

During pancreatic cancer development, cancer cells undergo changes in metabolic signalling in order to survive and grow.

The multidisciplinary project team, led by Professor Paul Timpson and Dr Brooke Pereira, identified that these metabolism changes were significantly increased in highly aggressive, metastatic pancreatic cancer cells.

Importantly, earlier studies have shown that inhibiting this metabolic signalling led to vastly improved immunotherapy outcomes for other forms of cancer including melanoma, breast and colon cancer.

By looking at historical patient cohorts, the team at Garvan found that pancreatic cancer patients with this altered metabolic signalling typically had worse prognoses compared to those with normal metabolic signalling.

The team demonstrated in early proof of concept experiments that reducing this metabolic signalling can lower pancreatic cancer aggressiveness.

Thanks to the support from PanKind Foundation, the team will now combine and apply these promising results to immunotherapy to investigate whether metabolic targeting can improve patient outcomes as has been shown in other studies.

If successful, the research could help improve the poor treatment response that is currently seen in pancreatic cancer.