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Adam Wolfe, MD, PhD

    Individualizing Radiation Treatments for Pancreatic Cancer Patients

    Adam Wolfe, MD, PhD, and Terence Williams, MD, PhD, and their team at The Ohio State University are conducting research that will help personalize treatments for patients with pancreatic cancer. With the lowest five-year survival rate of all the major cancers, new solutions that help determine the treatments that are the best for each individual patient with pancreatic cancer are needed now to improve outcomes.

    Dr. Wolfe’s and Dr. Williams’ work aims to identify which pancreatic cancer patients could benefit the most from radiation therapy following surgery using a new molecular signature that they discovered and is made up of microRNAs found in blood and tumor tissue samples. Their preliminary findings show that this innovative biomarker can predict which of these patients are at high risk for the cancer to recur locally or regionally near the original site of the tumor and which patients are at high risk for the cancer to metastasize and appear in more distant locations in the body. Prior studies have shown that radiation therapy following surgery improves local-regional control of pancreatic cancer, but many patients also experience side effects. Patients with a molecular signature showing they are at high risk for local-regional recurrence could make informed treatment decisions about radiation therapy while those at risk for metastatic disease could be spared the side-effects as well as the time and cost of treatment.

    With the ROI grant, Dr. Wolfe and Dr. Williams are:
    • Validating the molecular signature to determine if it can predict for local-regional recurrence in an independent dataset using samples from two other institutions.
    • Examining whether microRNA-296 increases cell death following radiation in cell and mouse models, which if successfully demonstrated, could eventually be used to identify the patients with pancreatic cancer that could benefit the most from radiation therapy.
    • Searching for other novel miRNA signatures that could further optimize treatment for patients with pancreatic cancer.  

    Dr. Wolfe, Dr. Williams and their team are making important strides toward improving outcomes for patients with pancreatic cancer by developing new tools to help ensure that the patients who could benefit from radiation therapy receive it. If the results of their study are promising, oncologists could use the molecular signature to select patients who would benefit the most from radiation therapy, and miRNA-296 could be developed into a novel targeted therapy to enhance radiation response.