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Pancreatic Cancer Patients Meet Pancreatic Cancer Researchers at Kosten Foundation and UTHSC Purple Night

Over 150 attendees learned firsthand about the work the Memphis-based Pancreatic Cancer Research Team is performing to try to cure the deadly disease.

Memphis, Tenn., October 18, 2018 – More than 150 people turned out to learn about pancreatic cancer at The Kosten Foundation’s Fourth Annual Purple Night, held October 6, 2018, at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC.) The event is designed to bring together researchers, physicians, patients, and their families and showcases work underway at UTHSC to find biomarkers for pancreatic cancer, establish new treatments, and train the next generation of researchers who will unlock the secrets of the disease. The evening is open to the public and includes recognition of survivors, a memorial to those who have died from the disease in the past year, and a meal of Indian food prepared by India Palace Restaurant and served by the research team, making it a celebration of life.

“Purple Night gives individuals the opportunity to meet the Pancreatic Cancer Research Team, learn what they are working on, and hear about advancements they have made to help fight this deadly disease,” said Alan Kosten, chairman of the Herb Kosten Pancreatic Cancer Charitable Fund. “The Kosten Foundation exists to support events such as these, as well as to help fund research to find a cure for pancreatic cancer, and provide resources and support to those battling the disease.”

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s leading pancreatic cancer research team, led by Dr. Subhash Chauhan, is made up of more than 20 scientists from around the globe, many of whom are sponsored through The Kosten Foundation. The research takes place in The Dermon II Family and Herb Kosten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at UTHSC which was established through a $200,000 grant from the foundation in 2016. The Kosten Foundation recently awarded a $300,000 grant to the UT Health Science Center Pancreatic Cancer Research Team to support doctoral students, purchase new lab equipment, and subsidize continued research efforts.

On Purple Night the team’s research got personal, as the group stepped out of the lab, sharing a meal and getting to know some of the people they are working so hard to help.

“This energizes me to work even harder,” said Dr. Subhash Chauhan, a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the College of Pharmacy and Pathology at the College of Medicine at UTHSC. “This gives the whole group of researchers an opportunity to see what a cancer patient looks like and how they feel. We get firsthand information from the patient we would otherwise not have access to.”

Dr. Steven R. Goodman, Vice Chancellor for Research at UTHSC, served as a chief guest and delivered his keynote address regarding the events and research focus at UTHSC. Professor Chauhan discussed inflammation and dietary intake, providing healthy living ideas for Pancreatic Cancer Survivors to maintain the energy and immune function of cells. Lorell White, a Genetic Counselor at Baptist Memorial Hospital, gave an overview of genes and the importance of exploring familial patterns and hereditary risk factors in pancreatic cancer. Sheema Khan, an Assistant Professor at UTHSC, highlighted research advances and accomplishments made by the UTHSC group in the past year as a direct result of support from the Kosten Foundation. Khan also spotlighted the research leads emerging from the group, which includes the development of mucin MUC13 as a biomarker for early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

Bilal Hafeez, Assistant Professor from UTHSC, shared the exciting results about a probiotic agent that can target stroma and immune checkpoint in pancreatic cancer and therefore be used to improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy treatment. The team has developed a new nanoparticle-mediated therapeutic approach against pancreatic cancer, which shows better results than the standard drug used in patients, gemcitabine. The group’s work will undergo fast-track clinical trials, creating hope of having this therapy available soon for all pancreatic cancer patients.

Pancreatic cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths and one of the most challenging diseases to diagnose, mainly because there are no definitive symptoms. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 53,670 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, and roughly 43,090 will die.

“The patients inspire us, and I would like to think that we show them the difference we’re making in pancreatic cancer at UTHSC,” said Dr. Stephen W. Behrman, a Professor in the Division of Surgical Oncology at UTHSC who helped establish the Herb Kosten Pancreatic Cancer Research Endowment Fund. “Hopefully, hearing about what we’re doing inspires them, gives them hope, and positively impacts their lives.”

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