Pancreatic Research

Cedars-Sinai is dedicated to being the international leader in pancreatic research through its advances in prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis and diabetes.

Each year 250,000 patients worldwide (including more than 40,000 in the United States) are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Because only a limited number are diagnosed early enough for successful surgical intervention, 225,000 die. In an effort to improve pancreatic cancer patients' survival rate, research is focused on finding ways to enable early diagnosis, develop novel treatments for the cancer, and prevent the initial occurrence and recurrence after treatment.

Pancreatitis is life threatening in its acute stage and causes immense and painful suffering in its chronic stages. In the United States, the number of hospital admissions for pancreatitis is greater than for any other gastrointestinal disease. Pancreatitis is also a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Thus, focusing on pancreatitis treatment and prevention will have an impact on pancreatic cancer rates.

Diabetes is a key risk factor for pancreatic cancer, suggesting that better treatment of diabetes can help prevent pancreatic cancer.

Basic Research


Cedars-Sinai is concentrating its pancreatic research on efforts to better understand the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic diseases. Its multidisciplinary team consists of molecular biologists, cell biologists, computational chemists, population scientists, clinical scientists and physicians.

Pancreatitis

Cedars-Sinai is concentrating its pancreatic research on efforts to better understand the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic diseases. Its multidisciplinary team consists of molecular biologists, cell biologists, computational chemists, population scientists, clinical scientists and physicians.

Figure 1 — Pancreatic acinar cell function under stress: The arrows show steps along the enzyme “production line” for a normal pancreas. When parts of a cell such as the endoplasmic reticulum are “stressed” by insults such as gallstones, diabetes or alcohol abuse, the secretion process may stop, leaving digestive enzymes with nowhere to go. The unfortunate result is that the cell may “digest itself.”

Figure 2 — Potential targets for development of therapeutics for acute pancreatitis: This illustration of a pancreatic acinar cell and blood vessel shows therapeutic targets that provide potential treatment opportunities. We are developing agents that work on these targets, with the results leading to clinical trials.

Pancreatic cancer

We are researching the interactions between different types of cells in the tumor that contribute to the growth and metastasis of the disease. Our focus is to use this information to develop preventive strategies and treatments. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3 — Components of pancreatic cancer.

Diabetes

We are taking a new approach to treating diabetes by focusing on the development of agents that can trigger gut endocrine cells to release into the blood the hormones called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and peptide YY (PYY), which are able to regulate insulin secretion and glucose metabolism and suppress appetite. (See Figure 4.)

Figure 4 — Fluorescence microscopic image of an L cell in human intestinal mucosa: The green fluorescent stain represents an antibody to glucagon-like peptide 1; while the red fluorescent stain represents an antibody to a luminal facing sensor. The blue is staining nuclei of the intestinal mucosa.

Clinical Research


We have several ongoing and developing research projects designed to make a significant impact on these diseases. As illustrated in Figure 5, projects that collect vital information from patients with pancreatic diseases is stored in our MetaBank biorespository.

The MetaBank stores biospecimens and clinical, demographic and epidemiologic data from patients who are at risk for or diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis or Type 2 diabetes.

This information informs our basic research projects so that the experiments are relevant to the human situation. Promising new treatments originating from basic research projects for pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis and diabetes are then applied back to patients in clinical trials to determine the treatments' effectiveness.

Figure 5 — Overall organization of pancreatic research at Cedars-Sinai 

Have Questions or Need Help?

Contact us if you have questions, or wish to learn more about pancreatic research at Cedars-Sinai.