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Dr. Peter Hosein Appointed to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Board

The Sylvester researcher will help PanCAN with its multipronged approach that includes early detection, fundamental discovery research and a new generation of more personalized treatments.

A photo of Dr. Peter Hosein.
Peter Hosein, M.D.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) recently announced the new members of its scientific and medical advisory board, which includes Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center oncologist and researcher Peter Hosein, M.D., for a three-year term.

The board helps guide PanCAN’s research programs, as well as its patient education and support efforts. This continues a long and fruitful relationship between PanCAN and the University of Miami, whose researchers have received several grants from the organization. Moreover, Dr. Hosein’s board membership brings national recognition to Sylvester, part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, for its work in pancreatic cancer. Dr. Hosein is the second Sylvester member appointed to the board, joining Nipun Merchant, M.D., the founding director of the Sylvester Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute.

“PanCAN is one of the largest pancreatic cancer advocacy groups in the country and has provided almost $200 million in research grants over the last two decades,” said Dr. Hosein, who is an associate professor of clinical oncology for the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “Our primary role on the board is to oversee the scientific direction of the organization, both in how grant monies are distributed and the direction research will take over the next few years.”

A Challenging Cancer

PanCAN funds much of the country’s pancreatic cancer research, and the need is great. The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer currently stands at only 12%. PanCAN seeks to improve standards of care and double survival by 2030.

To help support this goal, Sylvester joined PanCAN’s Precision Promise consortium, which includes 30 of the best pancreas centers across the country. The consortium conducts adaptive clinical trials, which are designed to advance successful treatments and quickly move on from those that fail. Dr. Hosein leads the consortium’s Sylvester arm.

Overall, PanCAN is taking a multipronged approach against the disease: early detection, fundamental discovery research and a new generation of more personalized treatments.

Early detection is particularly important. This includes examining inherited and non-inherited pathways of pancreatic cancer, such as family history, genetic factors or underlying illnesses. Those who may have a high risk factor for pancreatic cancer may choose genetic and biomarker testing for early detection. While breast, prostate and lung cancers all have effective screening tests, pancreatic cancer does not. As a result, people are often diagnosed later, when treatments can be less effective. PanCAN has launched an early detection initiative to change that.

“Some early detection programs result in a five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer of 73%, which is a huge difference,” said Dr. Hosein. “That’s not doubling survival, that is multiplying it six times — that’s how much impact we can have.”

The Promise of Immunotherapy

Dr. Hosein’s research is particularly focused on using immunotherapy to treat pancreatic cancer. Checkpoint inhibitors, which can illuminate cancers for T cells, have been mostly ineffective against pancreatic tumors. However, Dr. Hosein has published two recent papers that show how immunotherapy can be used to treat this disease more effectively.

Dr. Hosein’s team identified a subgroup of patients with mutations in their BRCA gene who can benefit from immunotherapy. This was great news; however, this group makes up only 8% of pancreatic cancer patients. Dr. Hosein also co-authored a study, with Dr. Merchant, showing they could obtain similar results for patients with KRAS mutations, which occur in around 90% of pancreatic cancers.

“Immunotherapies have led to high cure rates in some cancers, especially melanoma and lung,” said Dr. Hosein. “Some patients with stage IV melanoma and stage IV lung cancer have been cured. We’re trying to apply these treatments to a wider population of patients with pancreatic cancer. I think this area of investigation is more likely to lead to a breakthrough.”

Dr. Hosein is proud of being elevated to the board but notes that he is part of a large and cohesive pancreatic cancer group at Sylvester, including Dr. Merchant and Jashodeep Datta, M.D., who last year received a $250,000 career development grant from PanCAN.

“There’s a huge team who are responsible for me being in this position,” said Dr. Hosein. “I couldn’t do what I do without collaborations with various labs, clinical researchers and our clinical delivery team. Sylvester’s Pancreatic Cancer Research Center is getting recognition on the national stage, and that will continue to grow. My appointment is a product of years of research success, and we believe we have the potential to make an even greater impact.”

Tags: Dr. Jashodeep Datta, Dr. Nipun Merchant, Dr. Peter Hosein, PanCAN, pancreatic cancer, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center