NEWS | November 20, 2018

UC Davis scientist and surgeon team take on pancreatic cancer with SU2C grant


UC Davis scientist Julie Sutcliffe and surgical oncologist Richard Bold have been awarded a $1 million “New Therapies Challenge” grant from the Pancreatic Cancer Collective in an effort to improve survival for people with the disease.

Julie Sutcliffe Julie Sutcliffe

The Collective is a strategic partnership of the Lustgarten Foundation and Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C). The UC Davis team was one of seven to receive the grant, which could be augmented by an additional $4 million in the second round of funding.

The UC Davis team will use the grant to build on nearly 15 years of work undertaken in Sutcliffe’s laboratory, which developed advanced imaging techniques to pinpoint pancreatic cancer using positron emission tomography with a specially synthesized peptide that binds to tumor cell receptors. The team will now develop the radiotherapy that can be delivered through a radioactive isotope using the same peptide. The radiotherapy will attack a protein called integrin αvβ6, which is significantly upregulated in pancreatic cancer and is a marker for cancer aggression.

“We have an opportunity through this funding to take our diagnostic agent and turn it into a therapy,” said Sutcliffe, professor in the Departments of Internal Medicine and Biomedical Engineering. “Over the next few months we will design and synthesize the targeted therapy, test its efficacy in animal models and prepare for translation to the clinic by the end of the 14-month proposal.”

Sutcliffe noted that similar radiotherapies have been developed and are in clinical trials for treatment of prostate cancer, neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer and other neuroendocrine tumors.

“There is a clear need right now for more effective pancreatic cancer treatment,” said Bold. “There is very little out there and the 5-year survival rate is not improving. Unfortunately only 20 percent of patients are eligible for surgery because the majority of them are diagnosed when the disease has already spread.”

Rick Bold
Richard Bold

At year’s end the UC Davis team, along with the other six grant recipients, will report their results to the Collective, and teams deemed to have the most promising treatment approaches will advance to the second round and receive $4 million to support clinical trials.

“New and effective treatments are urgently needed for cancer of the pancreas,” said Phillip A. Sharp, the Nobel Laureate who is chair of SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee and scientific co-leader of the Collective. “The two-step process created by the Pancreatic Cancer Collective is an innovative and flexible approach that will speed up the research process, help us have a real impact on pancreatic cancer, and bring new hope to patients and their families.”

Lars Berglund, interim dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine and associate vice chancellor for biomedical research, said the SU2C pancreatic cancer team project exemplifies the collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to research at UC Davis that can change lives.

“With this opportunity from SU2C, Drs. Sutcliffe and Bold have the momentum to take their years of innovative work in the laboratory into the clinic as an effective new treatment for pancreatic cancer patients everywhere.”

Sutcliffe said she is proud and thrilled to be part of the international SU2C effort.

“It is a great honor to receive this prestigious grant and the opportunity to improve outcomes for people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” she said. “Working in tandem with other leading clinicians and scientists around the country and beyond, I believe we can make the difference so desperately needed.”

The grants were announced today by the American Association for Cancer Research, the scientific partner of SU2C and world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer.


The Pancreatic Cancer Collective is an initiative of the Lustgarten Foundation and Stand Up To Cancer to improve pancreatic cancer patient outcomes. Together, these leading cancer research organizations will attract new collaborators; improve diagnosis of pancreatic cancer using big data; find new treatments for pancreatic cancer; and support the next generation of pancreatic cancer investigators. Engaging thought leaders, researchers, institutions, and companies, the Collective will innovate and accelerate research on the edge of science. For more information, visit


The Lustgarten Foundation is America’s largest private funder of pancreatic cancer research. Based in Woodbury, N.Y., the Foundation supports research to find a cure for pancreatic cancer, facilitates dialogue within the medical and scientific community, and educates the public about the disease through awareness campaigns and fundraising events. Since its inception, the Lustgarten Foundation has directed $165 million to research and assembled the best scientific minds with the hope that one day, a cure can be found. Thanks to separate funding to support administrative expenses, 100% of your donation goes directly to pancreatic cancer research. For more information, visit