Pancreatic cancer is a genetic disease caused by inherited and acquired alterations of key genes in our DNA.

Johns Hopkins is the leading pancreatic cancer research center in the world.

The team at Johns Hopkins has taken a deeply collaborative approach to pancreatic cancer research, and as a result, have been leaders in pancreatic cancer research for the last three decades.

Their accomplishments have spanned the full range of research in pancreatic cancer, including: the causes of inherited forms of pancreatic cancer, disease screening, novel early detections strategies, elucidating the genetics and biology of pancreatic cancers and precursor lesions, and the development of personalized therapeutics. Some of these accomplishments are highlighted below:

Developed the first blueprint of the genes that drive development of pancreatic cancer.

Sequencing all of the known genes in a series of pancreatic cancers, the team at Johns Hopkins were able to identify the crucial acquired genetic alterations necessary for the development of pancreatic cancer. This knowledge is the foundation of continued developments in the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer.

Developed a blood test to detect pancreatic cancer early.

Using knowledge gained from their blueprint of key genes, the team developed a novel blood test to detect pancreatic cancer before a patient develops symptoms. This blood test is now being evaluated in a large clinical trial.

Developed a test to evaluate cystic precancerous lesion in the pancreas.

The team developed a new test to evaluate cystic precancerous lesions, balloon-line spaces in the pancreas that can develop over time into cancer. These precancerous lesions can be detected on CAT scans, however, knowing which ones will develop into cancer and should be removed surgically is very difficult. The new test will help determine which lesions will likely progress and should be removed, thereby, preventing cancer and unnecessary surgery.

Discovered inherited genes that increase the risk of pancreatic cancer (“familial pancreatic cancer genes”).

Sequencing all known genes in more than 600 patients with a familial form of pancreatic cancer the team identified new genes that increase risk of pancreatic cancer. This knowledge is essential to future efforts to identify patients at high-risk of pancreatic cancer and prioritize them for cancer screening. Knowing these genes allows doctors to quantify risk and to prioritize carriers of one of these genes for cancer screening.

Awards and Honors

The pancreatic cancer research team at Johns Hopkins are the recipients of a number of awards and honors. Four members of the Johns Hopkins pancreatic cancer team are recognized as being in the top 10 most highly cited pancreatic cancer scientists, with Ralph Hruban, M.D,  Baxley Professor and Director of the Department of Pathology,  recognized as the most highly cited of all of pancreatic cancer researchers. The paper from the Hopkins team reporting the discovery of the DPC4/SMAD4 gene is the most highly cited paper in all of pancreatic cancer research. Ralph Hruban, M.D was awarded the 2006 Medical Visionary Award from PanCAN, the national pancreatic cancer patient advocacy group. Scott Kern, M.D., Co-Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Program, was awarded the Louis Cochet Award for Outstanding Pancreatic Cancer Research. The team has also twice won the American Association for Cancer Research’s prestigious Team Science Award.

What we hope to achieve

We hope that by supporting cutting-edge research at Johns Hopkins, Art Creates Cures will transform the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer, and in so doing provide hope to patients and their families. We aim to fundamentally impact the care of patients by developing a scientific basis for the genetic counseling of people at high-risk of pancreatic cancer, innovative early detection tests to identify patients before their cancer has spread, and personalized treatments based on the specific genetics and biology of a patient’s cancer.

Both art and science, “hold, as ‘twere, the mirror up to nature.”

– William Shakespeare, Hamlet, III