Dr. Anirban Maitra
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Pathology, Anatomical
Pancreatic cancer is an almost universally lethal malignancy, with a survival rate of less than 5% at five years. The vast majority of patients present with advanced, surgically inoperable disease, and current chemotherapeutics have had minimal impact on prognosis over the last 40 years. The long-term goal of our laboratory is to improve the dismal survival rates for patients afflicted with pancreatic cancer. The broad categories of research being undertaken in our laboratory include: (a) functional annotation of recurrent “driver” mutations in pancreatic cancer using biologically relevant in vitro and animal models; (b) subset genomics, such as identifying the genetic basis for so-called “extreme responders” to therapy, and correlating patterns of treatment failure / disease recurrence in the pancreatic cancer patient population with underlying mutational profiles; (c) engineering novel experimental therapies, including small molecules, RNA delivery and nanoparticle-based platforms; and (d) early detection strategies that incorporate a systems biology approach to biomarker development. We are heavily invested in collaborating with our clinical colleagues in the rapid translational of laboratory findings to the clinic. Graduate students will be offered an opportunity to participate in a multi-disciplinary research endeavor that includes working with genetically engineered cell lines and mouse models, as well as access to human biospecimens, including tissues and body fluids from patients with established cancers and precancerous lesions. Opportunities for gaining expertise in next generation sequencing and bioinformatics are available, especially in the context of limited specimens and “liquid biopsy” settings. Participation in clinical and research conferences relevant to pancreatic cancer will be strongly encouraged.