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Grant Bolsters Pancreatic Cancer Research

January 31, 2011 | DAGNY STUART

Stephen Fesik, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry, Pharmacology and Chemistry, has received a $2.5 million grant to fund research on drugs for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

The three-year award from the Lustgarten Foundation will support Fesik’s work on targeting K-Ras, a protein that is mutated in 90 percent of pancreatic cancer patients.

Stephen Fesik, Ph.D.

Approximately 43,140 patients were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States in 2010 with 36,800 deaths from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

There are few treatment options for the disease, which has a dismal five-year survival rate.

“I am honored to receive this multi-year grant in support of our drug discovery research against this horrible disease,” said Fesik, who holds the Orrin H. Ingram II Chair in Cancer Research. “The grant will also allow us to be part of the Lustgarten Foundation’s consortium of outstanding researchers working together in the fight against pancreatic cancer.”

The Lustgarten Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting research that will lead to a cure for pancreatic cancer. The Foundation was launched in 1999, inspired by Marc Lustgarten, vice chairman of Cablevision and chairman of Madison Square Garden in New York. Lustgarten, who served on the initial board of directors for the Foundation, died from pancreatic cancer at 52.

Fesik is one of seven Vanderbilt researchers recently elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for his contributions in the application of structural biology to medicinal chemistry and drug discovery. In 2010, Fesik also received the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award for his proposal to push the boundaries of drug discovery.

Fesik has published more than 230 papers and has won many awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance from the Eastern Analytical Society and the SBS Technology Innovation Award. In addition, he served as a member of several editorial boards, scientific advisory boards and boards of directors.