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Pancreatic Cancer Action Network-AACR Pathway to Leadership Grant Awarded to Johns Hopkins Early-career Investigator

January 19, 2010

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PHILADELPHIA – The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the American Association for Cancer Research have awarded Zeshaan A. Rasheed, M.D., Ph.D., the 2010 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network-AACR Pathway to Leadership Grant. This grant, totaling $600,000 over five years, will support Rasheed’s efforts to examine the relevance of cancer stem cells in pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

Cancer stem cells are a subset of cells hypothesized to mediate the growth and spread of cancer.

“This is a critical area of research that will lay the groundwork for new therapies that can effectively treat pancreatic cancer and stem the tide of this devastating, and too frequently fatal, disease,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), CEO of the American Association for Cancer Research. “We are pleased to partner with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in order to distribute this and other grants that underscore the urgency to fund high quality, impactful research leading to breakthroughs that save lives.”

“This is the first year that we have offered the Pathway to Leadership Grant,” stated Julie Fleshman, J.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. “It is a highly competitive award that was developed to attract the brightest and most promising early-career scientists to the field of pancreatic cancer to ensure future leadership of the research community. We congratulate Dr. Rasheed on receiving this esteemed award and we look forward to working with him.”

Rasheed earned his medical degree and doctorate in cellular and molecular pharmacology from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Currently, he is a medical oncology fellow at The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center of Johns Hopkins, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His funded research focuses on how different populations of pancreatic cancer stem cells are related to one another and which factors regulate cancer stem cell growth and spread throughout the body. By making these determinations, Rasheed will then investigate how cancer stem cell inhibition is possible, which may lead to the development of novel cancer stem cell-targeting therapies.

The newly introduced Pathway to Leadership Grant is open to postdoctoral or clinical research fellows. It parallels the highly coveted K99/R00 early-career investigator awards that are offered by the National Cancer Institute. Recipients receive financial support for two years of mentored research followed by three years of independent research. Funding decisions for the Pathway to Leadership Grant are made by an outside committee of experts in pancreatic cancer using a rigorous and transparent process. Importantly, in addition to receiving research funds, grant recipients are provided with career development opportunities. These include mentorships and connections with senior scientists; invitations to present at scientific sessions, lead conference workshops and participate in training and educational webinars; site visits to mentor laboratories to learn new techniques and skills; involvement with pancreatic cancer survivors and their caregivers; and information resources to keep them apprised of emerging developments in the field.

The grant will be formally awarded at the AACR Annual Meeting on April 20, 2010. The term for the grant begins on July 1, 2010.

In its mission to accelerate pancreatic cancer research, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network collaborated with AACR to promote and support outstanding research focused on conquering this deadly disease. Nine grants through four grant mechanisms will be awarded in 2010, with a total funding level of nearly $2.3 million. This represents the largest annual dollar amount disbursed since the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network introduced the program in 2003. It reflects nearly a 90 percent increase in funding since last year.

The goals of the grants program are to emphasize the urgent need to expedite scientific and medical breakthroughs that benefit patients, build a cadre of researchers dedicated to the field of pancreatic cancer research and encourage collaboration, information-sharing and innovation.

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About the American Association for Cancer Research
The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 30,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and nearly 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowship and career development awards. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 16,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. The AACR publishes six major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; and Cancer Prevention Research. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists. CR provides a forum for sharing essential, evidence-based information and perspectives on progress in cancer research, survivorship and advocacy.

About the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is the only national organization creating hope in a comprehensive way through research, patient support, community outreach and advocacy for a cure. The organization raises money for direct private funding of research—and advocates for more aggressive federal research funding of medical breakthroughs in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network fills the void of information and options by giving patients and caregivers reliable, personalized information they need to make informed decisions. It creates a sense of hope and community so no one has to face pancreatic cancer alone. The organization helps support individuals and communities all across the country to work together to raise awareness and funds to find a cure for pancreatic cancer.

Media Contact:
Michele Leiberman
(267) 646-0622
michele.leiberman@aacr.org

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