Funding Need: Innovation Research in Pancreatic Cancer*
- Third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States
- Five-year survival rate of just 7%
- No screening tests
- Vague Symptoms
- Over half when diagnosed have stage IV disease – when the cancer has spread beyond the pancreas. At this point, the prognosis is dismal.
Alarming Increase in pancreatic cancer diagnoses:
- Over 53,000 new pancreatic cancer cases diagnosed in 2017 with 43,000 deaths
- 1,300 pancreatic cancer deaths of New Jersey residents in 2017
- Pancreatic cancer expected to become second leading cause of cancer related deaths in the next decade.
Hope is on the horizon. Innovative research is underway at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center, spearheaded by nationally renowned gastroenterologist cancer researcher Angela Alistar, MD, medical director of GI medical oncology at Morristown Medical Center and Atlantic Health System Cancer Care. Her pioneering studies in pancreatic cancer focus on metabolic therapy to decode and treat the disease.
Background on Dr. Alistar
Angela Alistar is a board-certified medical oncologist who specializes in translational research. She joined Atlantic Health System in 2017 from the Wake Forest School of Medicine, where she led the GI oncology team, bringing cutting-edge treatments to patients with cancers of the pancreas, colon, rectum, bile duct, esophagus, as well as melanoma.
While there, she designed and conducted five investigator-initiated therapeutic clinical trials and was the Principal Investigator of the Precision Oncology study at Wake Forest University, which is poised to generate new hypotheses in genomic-driven clinical trials.
In her role at Morristown Medical Center, Dr. Alistar brings her passion and expertise to with the goal of building a robust GI cancer research institute.
New Research Brings New Hope
Dr. Alistar has already opened several important clinical trials at Morristown and her goal is to have a clinical trial option for every patient with pancreatic cancer irrespective of stage. She is conducting her work at the Simon Cancer Center and with the Atlantic Center for Research (the research arm of Atlantic Health System and its five hospitals including Morristown Medical Center) which offers clinical trials in cancer, heart disease, complex neurological conditions, among others. Research plays a vital role in the ability of our hospitals to deliver the most advanced health care to our patients and is a fundamental component in maintaining national recognition.
One of Dr. Alistar’s most notable studies is with a new anticancer drug called CPI-613. CPI-613 is a first-in-class drug designed to disrupt the altered energy-production pathways in cancer cells by targeting their mitochondrial metabolism. (Mitochondria are found in most cells, in which the biochemical processes of respiration and energy production occur.) CPI-613 is the first anticancer drug of its kind that selectively targets a process in cell multiplication and survival and is being tested on patients with stage IV disease.
Results from Dr. Alistar’s early phase trial of CPI-613 published last summer in The Lancet Oncology showed that CPI-613, in combination with FOLFIRINOX (an FDA approved multidrug treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer), killed cancer cells with lower toxicity. This combination chemotherapy regimen proved safe and was well-tolerated by patients.
This year, Dr. Alistar and co-principal investigator Philip, MD, PhD of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Michigan, will conduct a multi-center Phase III study using CPI-613. Patient enrollment will begin in July 2018 at the Simon Cancer Center.
“This study gives me reason for hope,” said Dr. Alistar. “Patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer have a very low survival rate, and the toxicity of current therapies limits their usefulness, underscoring the desperate need for safer, more effective treatments. That is why I have dedicated my career to helping find effective therapies for pancreatic and other difficult-to-treat GI cancers.”
Funding Need: Clinical Research Associate
Funding is needed to hire a clinical research associate to support the work of Dr. Alistar at the Simon Cancer Center.
Increase the number of GI/pancreatic cancer research trials open to accrual. At present, we have 8 trials open. The research associate would enable us to add 5 new trials that are in the pipeline.
Increase the number of patients enrolled in trials. There are currently 6 patients enrolled in studies; the new position will enable us to potentially double this number. Optimal enrollment: 12-24 patients.
Increase the number of patient visits within the pancreatic cancer research protocols. We currently have 22 patient visits per month for the GI/pancreatic cancer studies. The research associate would enable us to increase this to 30 per month.
About the Simon Cancer Center
The Carol G. Simon Cancer Center is located on Morristown Medical Center’s campus in a four-story, 80,000 sq. ft. building. It is staffed by 250 board-certified physicians, nurses and technologists and 100 volunteers. 6,000 patients come to us from throughout New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania and New York State each year, and 3,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed here. Outpatient visits total 120,000 annually.
Advanced treatments – like immunotherapy – are provided by 16 nationally renowned medical oncologists. Our cutting-edge radiation oncology service treats over 80 patients a day using state-of-the-art technology including high-precision TrueBeam™. Our cancer surgery program is one of the largest in the state, with over 40 highly trained specialists in multiple cancer types. Our nationally-accredited breast center offers digital imaging technology, while programs in women’s and men’s cancers offer state-of-the-art treatment and access to ground-breaking clinical trials.
Our brain cancer program is renowned for its care of benign and malignant tumors, plus those of the spine and spinal cord. We’ve assembled the largest head and neck cancer team in New Jersey. Blood cancers are expertly managed by a team of specialists, and highly experienced physicians treat gastrointestinal cancers while pioneering innovative research that gives hope for late stage pancreatic cancer.
Specialized services include genetic counseling for hereditary cancers; an integrative medicine program; a palliative care program for pain management; and a survivorship program. At the same time, 100 industry and federally funded clinical research trials are underway to test new life-saving diagnostic, medical, surgical and interventional treatments.
*Excerpted and edited from text provided by the Foundation for Morristown Medical Center