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Gift Advances Pancreas Cancer Detection and Prevention Research

February 18, 2014

Scientists at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins received a $100,000 gift from the Chicago-based Leslie F. Schwartz Pancreatic Cancer Research Foundation to fund pioneering research in pancreas cancer prevention and detection. Foundation president Mark Schwartz says the gift is the first major donation made by the foundation, which was founded in 2011 to support pancreatic cancer research following the death of his wife Leslie, a media executive at GroupM Chicago.

Pancreas cancer expert Christopher Wolfgang, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, is leading the research aimed at identifying the first genetic changes that initiate this deadly form of cancer. His studies will examine fluid-filled cysts that form in the ducts of the pancreas. These cysts, called intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMN), are a primary way that pancreas cancers originate. They provide an early opportunity to intervene and potentially prevent pancreas cancer.

"We are so grateful for the Foundation's support. It is funding research that will help us better understand the genetic alterations contained within IPMNs to form a timeline of pancreas cancer origination and progression," says Wolfgang. "We hope to learn how they originate, differentiate harmless cysts from those that will become cancers, and decipher the specific molecular changes involved in the progression from cyst to pancreas cancer."

"Thanks to Leslie's indomitable spirit and the generosity of our donors, we are pleased to be in a position to provide financial assistance to the pancreatic cancer early detection project undertaken by Dr. Christopher Wolfgang and his distinguished colleagues at Johns Hopkins," said Schwartz. "We hope that this research will bring us closer to the development of universally reliable methods for the early detection of pancreatic cancer."