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Florida Pancreas Collaborative

Among the top causes of cancer death in the United States and Florida, pancreatic cancer is the deadliest, with a 5-year relative survival rate of 8% - 9%. This dismal prognosis is primarily attributed to the lack of early detection strategies.

Based on changing demographics and incidence and death rates, pancreatic cancer is projected to surpass breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer and become the second leading cause of cancer deaths by 2020.

Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasms (IPMNs) are the most common cystic precursors to pancreatic cancer; they account for 40-70% of the estimated 700,000 asymptomatic pancreatic cysts detected incidentally through computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) each year. The only way to treat these cysts and examine severity is through surgical removal and pathological evaluation. However, pancreatic resection is associated with significant risks of morbidity (including long-term diabetes) and even mortality.

There is an unmet need to develop minimally-invasive approaches that can accurately distinguish more severe IPMNs that require removal from less severe IPMNs that can be observed. Dr. Jenny Permuth and other Moffitt colleagues have highlighted microRNAs (miRNAs) circulating in the blood as biomarkers that can help distinguish pre-operatively between ‘low-risk/benign’ IPMNs that can be monitored from ‘high-risk/malignant’ IPMNs that should undergo surgical resection. 

To build on this research, Dr. Permuth and Dr. Malafa partnered with collaborators Dr. Nipun Merchant (University of Miami) and Dr. Jose Trevino (University of Florida), and obtained funds from the Florida Academic Cancer Center Alliance to establish The Florida Pancreas Collaborative: A Partnership Dedicated to the Early Detection and Prevention of Pancreatic Cancer.

Since 2015, this prospective, multi-center study has been developing infrastructure to evaluate risk factors for and biomarkers of early pancreatic cancer development and progression by longitudinally collecting biospecimens and clinical, epidemiologic, and radiologic data from patients newly diagnosed with IPMNs, other diseases of the pancreas (such as other types of pancreatic cysts, pancreatitis, or early-stage pancreatic cancer), and healthy controls.

As part of this study, the team is evaluating the diagnostic performance of the circulating miRNA signature they have developed using this larger dataset. An overarching goal of this line of research is to integrate novel molecular and radiologic data with standard clinical characteristics in order to develop strategies to rapidly and cost-effectively personalize care for patients with IPMNs and ultimately reduce the burden of pancreatic cancer.

Learn more about the Pancreatic Cancer Early Detection Study or contact 813-745-1060 for any related questions.