The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, a patient advocacy organization based in Manhattan Beach, announced Tuesday that it is awarding 10 new grants and extending five previously funded grants, bringing its total research investment in fiscal year 2020 to $21 million.

“Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, and diagnoses continue to rise,” said Julie Fleshman, president and CEO of PanCAN. “Research is key as we fight to improve patient outcomes, and we are so grateful to our generous donors who allow us to fund this important science.”

Dr. Mustafa Raoof of City of Hope and Gillian Gresham of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center are among the 10 researcher recipients of PanCAN grants. The other grants went to researchers at Columbia University, the University of Chicago, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, University of Cincinnati and Georgetown University.

PanCAN and its scientific reviewers awarded five grant extensions to previously funded investigators to continue their highly promising projects, including Nicholas Cosford of the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla.

Of the newly awarded grants, the recipients include eight first-time PanCAN grantees and three new institutions.

Five grants awarded support projects led by early-career researchers, helping them further establish themselves in order to secure funding from other sources in the future. The other five grantees received translational grants, which support projects aiming to take important discoveries from the laboratory to the clinic for patient benefit.

All grantees and extensions were selected through an open and highly competitive, peer-review process, according to PanCAN.

Foundation officials noted that the pancreatic cancer research community has been heavily affected this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. In many instances, laboratories were forced to shut their doors, costing investigators precious resources, progress and time, they said.

The impact has been especially challenging for early-career investigators who don’t yet have robust foundational data and experimental results to build from, according to Lynn Matrisian, PanCAN’s chief science officer.

As a result, for the first time, PanCAN has offered a flexible start date to allow grantees time to prepare their labs and teams before undertaking the experiments they proposed for their PanCAN research grant.

Recipients were given the option to initiate their funded period on July 1, marking the beginning of PanCAN’s fiscal year, or to postpone their start date until September or even January. In addition, PanCAN is allowing flexibility with reporting deadlines and other requirements for active grantees.

“We realize this is an extremely difficult time to be running a lab, so we are taking measures to support our grantees however we can,” Matrisian said. “Even in the midst of a pandemic, pancreatic cancer does not slow down or stop, and the research our grantees are conducting is more important than ever.”

Since 2003, PanCAN’s grants program has awarded 199 grants to 187 scientists at 71 institutions.

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