Skip navigation to main content.

UNMC pancreas research addresses early disease detection

May 16, 2019

Dr. Paul Grandgenett is a research associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. As the director of the Pancreas SPORE Rapid Autopsy Program, he currently studies early disease detection and pancreas cancer while working to develop new and effective treatment strategies.

Through pancreas and liver donations from Live On Nebraska, Grandgenett hopes to aid in basic science research and translate the results into clinical trials for patients. Although Grandgenett is researching pancreatic cancer, livers can also be affected by the disease and are part of his study, too.

Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States with the lowest survival rate of just 9 percent, he said. He added that an estimated 55,440 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreas cancer and 44,300 will die from the disease.

There are currently limited early-detection tests available for pancreas cancer as compared to tests available for other cancers. Treatment options are also limited due to the typically late diagnosis, and surgery to remove the cancer is only available to less than 20 percent of diagnosed adenocarcinoma patients, Grandgenett said.

Due to the low percentage of patients diagnosed early enough for surgical removal, he said the availability of tissue for research is limited. Collection from donors with disease and with no detectable disease is essential to the study of cancer progression.

“Collection of samples from Live On Nebraska donors serves to provide control tissues for studies,” Grandgenett said. “(With this unique resource) we are attempting to isolate early disease lesions. Collection of these samples will provide researchers at UNMC and other institutions invaluable tools in their study of pancreas cancer.”

The goal of the studies is to better the basic understanding about how cancer acts in comparison to non-diseased tissue to eventually help cancer patients, specifically by comparing how disease progression occurs in normal and diseased tissues.

“The effort to study pancreatic disease requires a team dedicated to the collection of tissues from not only pancreatic cancer patients but also the generous Live On Nebraska donors,” Grandgenett said. “This team of volunteers includes a core group of researchers and medical personnel that make themselves available at all times for these important collections. Recognition of the unique and critical nature of these samples for studies at UNMC and at other institutions throughout the U.S. drives all involved to continue to build this resource for current and future generations.”

This is part six of a seven-part series outlining the ways organ and tissue donors from Nebraska benefit many through research projects. Look for next week’s contribution discussing the second project that gives insight into abdominal hernias.



Back to News & Events