ZiMT Journal Club March 2019: Prof. Christian Pilarsky / New insights into pancreatic cancer could lead to improved treatment

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Prof. Christian Pilarsky, Surgery Clinic, Translational Research Center, University Hospital of Erlangen

New insights into pancreatic cancer could lead to improved treatment

Pancreatic cancer is, worldwide, the 6th most frequent cause of cancer death. Of all cancers it has the most abysmal five-year survival rate. This is due to a lack of sufficiently early detection methods and the fact that, if detected, the cancer has already spread. Analyzing the common genetic changes demonstrate a rather monotone set of mutations, typically in KRAS, SMAD4, TP53 and CDKN2A. This has resulted in a resurrection of the importance of an understanding of epigenetic changes and has led to the introduction of pancreatic cancer subtypes, which might need different treatment approaches. With the advent of organoid culture methods, pre-testing for chemo resistance might be feasible to adjust therapeutic regimens and can be used to establish new genetic signatures for resistance. Together with improved immunooncology approaches, this knowledge of molecular changes in pancreatic cancer might considerably improve survival rates.


Prof. Christian Pilarsky received his Ph.D. from the Johann Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. After working on prostate cancer at the University Hospital in Dresden he co-founded a small biotech company, metaGen Pharmaceuticals, in Berlin. In 2002 he established a laboratory dedicated to pancreas cancer research at the Department of Surgery at the University Hospital Dresden. Since 2016 he joined the FAU to lead the pancreas cancer research lab of the Department of Surgery at the Universitätsklinikum Erlangen. His team focusses on CRISPR/Cas9 DNA modification to understand the basic mechanisms in pancreatic cancer development and its chemoresistance. He received funding from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the Wilhelm Sander-Stiftung and Genentech for the study of pancreatic cancer.