UBC Pancreatic Cancer Researcher Wins Prestigious Award

Kimberly Wiegand has received a Banting Postdoctoral fellowship for 2014.  Kimberly has been working as a postdoctoral research assistant in the Department Cellular & Physiological Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Michael Underhill. 

The Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships program provides funding to the very best postdoctoral applicants, both nationally and internationally, who will positively contribute to the country's economic, social and research‑based growth.

Kimberly’s research focus is pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), an aggressive malignancy with a 5-year survival of < 5%.  Interestingly, these tumours contain a large stromal component that can comprise up to 90% of the tumour.  Tumour-associated stroma provides a microenvironment to support tumour growth and progression.  The PDAC-associated stroma is hypothesized to derive from pancreatic stellate cells, which represent tissue resident mesenchymal stroma cells (MSCs). Kimberly’s project will focus on a specific cellular program that appears to be important in regulating MSC activation and cell-cycle entry.  The overall objective of her project is to better understand the functional role of this program involving a novel tumour suppressor protein in pancreatic cancer progression and stroma.   This protein is normally expressed in MSC/stellate cells within the pancreas, and expression is decreased in activated MSCs. Her approach will utilize novel in vivo genetic models to manipulate expression of this tumour suppressor. Collectively, this research plan will answer several questions regarding the contribution and fate of activated MSCs in the pancreas, and will enable the identification of novel mechanisms for modulating the activated stroma in pancreatic cancer. 

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