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City of Hope, TGen Win $4.5M Grant to Advance Pancreatic Cancer Liquid Biopsy Screening

NEW YORK – City of Hope and its Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) said on Thursday that they have been awarded a $4.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to lead an international group that will validate a liquid biopsy test for the early detection of pancreatic cancer.

The blood-based assay, developed by the National Cancer Institute’s Pancreatic Cancer Detection Consortium (PCDC), analyzes exosomal microRNAs that make up a unique RNA fingerprint associated with pancreatic cancer.

The investigators intend to enroll patients with early-stage pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) at 10 sites, including two that primarily serve Black/African American and Asian patients to ensure the cohort and resulting biorepository represents diverse populations.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology identifies pancreatic cancer as the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths among adults in the United States. PDAC is particularly deadly, with less than 6 percent of patients surviving for five or more years after diagnosis, and has been difficult to diagnose at an early stage.

TGen and City of Hope said that initial data on the miRNA-based test has been promising, showing that it can identify abnormal cell growth. If this bears out in the study, the diagnostic has the potential to reduce unnecessary surgeries and associated complications.

"We desperately need tools for very early detection of pancreatic cancer at stages where it can be treated effectively. Our preliminary data are promising, and this grant will help solidify just how reliable this test will be," TGen distinguished professor Daniel Von Hoff, the effort's co-principal investigator, said in a statement.