Cancer Research Institute Media Room




Pancreatic Cancer Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Launches at UPENN

The Lustgarten Foundation and the Cancer Research Institute co-sponsor new study at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania to help immune system target and eliminate cancer cells

The Lustgarten Foundation, the nation’s largest private foundation dedicated solely to funding pancreatic cancer research, and the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), a nonprofit organization devoted to transforming cancer patient care through the discovery and development of immune system-based cancer therapies, are co-sponsoring a new approach to the treatment of pancreatic cancer. A new clinical trial led by Dr. Carl June and Dr. Gregory Beatty at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania will focus on altering and training a patient’s immune system to target and eliminate cancer cells.

As part of the clinical trial, each participating patient will have a type of immune cell called T cells removed from their blood. Using a revolutionary new approach, the T cells are then genetically modified to express protein complexes known as chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), which act as a tool to help the reprogrammed T cells recognize and destroy pancreatic cancer cells. The altered T cells are put back into the patient so his or her immune system can begin fighting the pancreatic cancer.

“Think of it like altering the gene sequence of these T cells so that they become trained assassins working for an individual’s immune system, focused exclusively on finding and killing the cancer cells,” said Dr. Carl June, professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “This research has shown very promising results in other cancers we’ve applied it to, so we’re grateful to The Lustgarten Foundation and the Cancer Research Institute for their support, which will enable us to continue this important work for pancreatic cancer.”

“Pancreatic cancer is the most lethal of all cancers. That’s why this new research is so promising and that’s why we’re pleased to partner with the Cancer Research Institute and the University of Pennsylvania to conduct this clinical trial,” said Kerri Kaplan, executive director, The Lustgarten Foundation. “We remain dedicated to advancing pancreatic cancer research by funding promising studies like this one, so we can find better treatments and ultimately, a cure for pancreatic cancer.”

“We are proud to collaborate with The Lustgarten Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania on this new approach to treating pancreatic cancer with the immune system,” said Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD, chief executive officer and director of scientific affairs, the Cancer Research Institute. “This powerful partnership leverages our combined expertise in cancer immunotherapy, pancreatic cancer, and treating cancer patients to bring new hope to people impacted by this deadly disease.”

The collaborative study grew out of a daylong think tank organized by the Cancer Research Institute and The Lustgarten Foundation, whereby a research map for immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer was identified and prioritized.

This trial is expected to open this fall and continue throughout the next year.

Media Contacts

Martin Blair, Lustgarten Foundation
212-576-270 or [email protected]

Brian Brewer, Cancer Research Institute
212-688-7515, ext. 242 or [email protected]

About The Lustgarten Foundation
The Lustgarten Foundation is America’s largest private foundation dedicated solely to funding pancreatic cancer research. Based in Bethpage, New York, the Foundation supports research to find a cure for pancreatic cancer, facilitates dialogue within the medical and scientific community, and educates the public about the disease through awareness campaigns and fundraising events. The Foundation has provided millions of research dollars and assembled the best scientific minds with the hope that one day, a cure can be found. And because Cablevision Systems Corporation, a leading media and telecommunications company, underwrites all of The Lustgarten Foundation’s administrative costs, 100 percent of every dollar donated to the Foundation goes directly to pancreatic cancer research. Learn more at

About Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
The Perelman School of Medicine is currently ranked #2 in U.S. News & World Report’s survey of research-oriented medical schools and is consistently among the nation’s top three recipients of federal funding from the National Institutes of Health. Penn’s physicians and scientists focus on research that utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to understand the fundamental mechanisms of disease, leading to new strategies for treatments and cures. In addition, faculty from 23 institutes and centers at Penn Medicine work together with their counterparts from the 11 other schools at the University of Pennsylvania to collaborate in such disparate areas as aging, neuroscience, and the impact of health care policy.

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