The challenge

Of the various gastrointestinal malignancies, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) represents one of the most urgent unmet medical needs. Surgery, the single curative option for this life threatening disease, is only available to approximately 20% of patients diagnosed. Advances in surgical treatment have increased the 5-year survival rate for these patients to ~20%, with median survival time in the leading clinical centers currently being 20-24 months. Recent clinical data indicate that (neo)adjuvant treatment can be beneficial for these patients. Unfortunately, the majority of PDA cases are diagnosed at a time when the cancer has already spread to surrounding tissues, precluding surgical resection. Curative options for this patient group are lacking, and despite many attempts no significant improvement in the median survival time (< 6months) has been achieved over the past decade.

Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarinoma, the most common type of pancreatic cancer, typically has a poor prognosis
© dkfz.de

The primary goals

  1. To improve the survival rate of patients with resectable PDA through development of new (neo)adjuvant treatment regiments.
  2. To increase efficacy of disease management through identification of biomarkers that can be used for earlier diagnosis and for patient stratification.

Our strategy

The research effort of the Div. of Molecular Oncology of Gastrointestinal Cancers at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) focuses on the development of immunotherapeutic strategies that can be deployed in conjunction with surgery and cytostatic anti-cancer treatment. While the likelihood of achieving therapeutic efficacy is highest in the context of resectable PDA, combination regimens involving immunotherapy may also improve the management of non-resectable disease.

The Div. of Pancreas Carcinoma Research at the Surgery Clinic of the University of Heidelberg exploits the excellent availability, through the European Pancreas Center, of patient data and biopsies for the identification of new diagnostic biomarkers.

Our main partners in Heidelberg

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