For the seventh year in a row, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), partner with UPMC CancerCenter, have received funding from the GIST Cancer Research Fund – a patient-driven organization that funds research on gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs). These tumors occur in the gastrointestinal tract and initially can be successfully treated with the targeted therapy drug Gleevec, but rapidly develop resistance to the treatment.
The $120,000 award supports the research of Anette Duensing, M.D., assistant professor of pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. According to Dr. Duensing, GIST research in her laboratory aims to better understand the biology of GIST responses to Gleevec, as well as the mechanisms underlying drug resistance. These studies provide the framework for developing more effective treatment options for GIST patients.
This year’s award pushes the total amount of money Dr. Duensing has received from the GIST Cancer Research Fund to more than $720,000. “This generous funding makes up a substantial part of my laboratory’s budget and has allowed us to continue investigating why GIST patients develop resistance to Gleevec,” said Dr. Duensing. Previously, Dr. Duensing identified a novel protein crucial for the tumor cell response to Gleevec. Manipulating levels of this protein in GIST cells results in a faster and more effective destruction of the tumor cells.
The GIST Cancer Research Fund was founded in 2001 by Tania Stutman, who was diagnosed with the disease in 1998. Since its founding, the fund has raised and awarded more than $4 million for GIST research. Dr. Duensing’s laboratory is one of only five institutes nationally that the fund supports.