Andrea Wang-Gillam, MD, PhD
Project 3 Co-Investigator, Pancreas SPORE; Project 1 Co-Investigator
Associate Professor, Medical Oncology Section, Oncology Division, Department of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine
As a medical oncologist specializing in GI oncology, Dr. Wang-Gillam's research interest is in the area of novel therapy development for pancreatic cancer. Tumorigenesis is largely driven by a network of dysregulated cell signal transduction pathways which are activated through phosphorylation of key mediators by their corresponding protein kinases; therefore, various methods to inhibit activated pathways have become a major strategy for drug discovery. The challenge of this approach is the scarcity of biopsy material available for research because patients with pancreatic cancer only undergo fine-needle aspiration (FNA) for diagnosis, and these specimens leave very little material for research beyond what is needed for diagnosis. Her research group has launched a study to evaluate the feasibility of detecting phosphorylated proteins pertinent to pancreatic cancer from FNA samples with a multiplexed protein microarray platform that uses the formation of a unique immune-complex to amplify and detect phosphorylated proteins in small biological samples. This study has confirmed the feasibility of using this platform to detect phosphorylated proteins from limited FNA biospecimen material, and moreover, the study has identified specific pathways that have a deleterious effect on pancreatic cancer clinical outcomes. Thus, research has defined potential novel therapeutic targets for pancreatic cancer patients and because these targets are defined for each patient, the therapy can be tailored for the individual patient. Based on the promising results of our pilot study, Dr. Wang-Gillam is planning a subsequent clinical trial to study targeted therapy based on individual patient phosphorylation signatures.