Project Title: Designing new strategies to target the tumour-promoting roles of pancreatic cancer fibroblasts
Project Aims: Up to 90% of pancreatic cancer tumours are made up of non-cancerous cells and these play an important role in making the disease so difficult to treat. The largest proportion of these non-cancerous cells are a type called fibroblasts, which help the cancer to grow and be resistant to chemotherapy.
Dr Biffi’s previous research found that there are different groups of fibroblasts within the tumours, but the exact role of each group is not yet known. Her new project will try and determine how these different groups contribute to the growth of pancreatic cancer and see if it’s possible to block them. Her team will look at both early and late stages of pancreatic cancer, and – using patient samples – cover a wide range of different fibroblasts found in patient tumours.
By improving our understanding of all the cells involved in pancreatic cancer – not just the cancerous ones – the team hope to help researchers to design more effective treatments. And it’s possible the fibroblasts themselves could work as a target for new treatments, in combination with other therapies.