Postdoctoral alumni award recognizes pancreatic cancer research

paper presentationSeptember 27, 2016

The National Institutes of Health estimate that over 41,000 Americans will die as a result of pancreatic cancer in 2016, accounting for seven percent of all cancer deaths this year. Between 2006 and 2012, the five-year survival rate of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer stood at 7.7 percent – one of the worst survival rates of all solid tumors. 

A paper honored by the OHSU School of Medicine Alumni Association as the 2016 Postdoctoral Research Paper of the Year proposes a new therapeutic modality for the pancreas ductal adenocarcimoma (PDA) tumor. The title of the paper is "Bruton's Tyrosine Kinase (BTK)-dependent immune cell crosstalk drives pancreas cancer," published in Cancer Discovery.

The paper demonstrated that ibrutinib, an FDA-approved therapy for leukemia, shut down B-cell activity in PDA tumors, thereby weakening the T-cell inhibitory environment of pancreatic cancers. 

As a result, PDA tumors become more sensitive to gemcitabine, the current standard-of-care chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. Implications of this work include the potential for improved patient outcomes as well as opening up avenues for further work in vaccine development.

The paper, which appeared in the December 2015 edition of Cancer Discovery, was presented by first author and award recipient Andrew Gunderson, Ph.D., at the September 22 concluding ceremony of the 2016 OHSU Postdoctoral Appreciation Week. 

Lisa Coussens, Ph.D., professor and chair of cell, developmental and cancer biology, OHSU School of Medicine, and associate director of basic research at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, is senior author on the paper and principal investigator.


  • Read the paper
  • Learn about the Coussens lab