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Drug repurposing in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - REPANCAN (Drug repurposing in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2022-06-30

The aim of this project was to enable the fellow Dr Jelena Grahovac to integrate into the research community in her home country at the Institute for Oncology and Radiology of Serbia (IORS), transfer the research skills gained during the doctoral and postdoctoral training in the USA into practice and lead a small team with an independent research project on drug repurposing in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). PDAC is one of the most lethal types of cancer. No screening tests are available and its incidence is rising. There is an urgent unmet need for new treatment strategies for patients with pancreatic cancer. The REPANCAN project addressed the acute demand for a novel strategy for treatment of patients with PDAC that would be both affordable and accessible. The overall objectives were to establish the mechanistic rationale for the novel use of nischarin agonists in treatment of PDAC and contribute to faster therapy development.
Work was conducted through 5 work packages. In the first, the expression analysis of the potential target for drug repurposing in PDAC was conducted for which the results were deposited into a public repository, and were presented in the form of one conference presentation. The fellow also gave a lecture at the University of Belgrade graduate course on the -omics technologies used in the REPANCAN project. In the second WP, the mechanisms of action of the selected agonists on PDAC were explored; the results were uploaded to a public repository and presented in a form of 4 poster presentations at international conferences. In the WP3 the potential of selected agonists to overcome resistance to standard chemotherapy were examined and the results were presented in a form of one conference talk and 3 poster presentations. In the WP4 an ex vivo pancreatic cancer organ model was established. The model was presented at an online international school on 3D tissue culture models and at a workshop for undergraduate students of the School of Biology, University of Belgrade. The fellow also gave a talk about the project at the COST action meeting on multidrug resistance and fellow’s graduate student presented the overall results as a poster at another international conference. In the WP5 a PDAC patient database was generated to perform retrospective analyses in order to determine whether selected agonists impact patient survival. During the fellowship, the fellow participated in outreach activities to promote careers in science, especially for women through video interviews for Science Calendar, Belgrade University student magazine and at COST actions meeting on gender equality.
The project contributed to the establishment of the first dedicated research group led by the fellow for studying pancreatic cancer in Serbia. During the fellowship, the fellow won a 194.000€ national grant from the Science Fund of the Republic of Serbia to establish a research team and work on drug repurposing in PDAC. The fellow trained two PhD students and a postdoctoral fellow and introduced a new field of study at the beneficiary. During the project a novel prognostic marker was validated and a novel drug target justified. While the full potential of the project was not realized due to the unprecedented pandemic situation, it provided results for more than 10 scientific presentations, 3 manuscripts under preparation, a ground for expansion of the research and preliminary results for further funding applications. The project contributed to the establishment of new national and international collaborations and has put the Institute for oncology and radiology of Serbia on PDAC research map.
Presenting in Prague at COST CA1704 meeting
Chairing a session at a virtual SDIR meeting
In Vilnius at a COST CA20137 meeting
In Vilnius at a conference
REPANCAN project team
In the lab with a PhD student
At IORS after receiving a covid vaccine