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Funding basic science to advance cancer research: Cancerfonden distributes 28 million SEK to Lund Stem Cell Center researchers

Researcher working at a lab bench. Photo.

Earlier this fall, the Swedish Cancer Foundation (Cancerfonden) distributed 133 million SEK to 41 cancer researchers at Lund University. Nearly a quarter of this - 28 million SEK - has been awarded to 11 researchers from Lund Stem Cell Center, funding translational research which seeks to advance cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

Isabella Artner, Associate Professor, is among the 11 researchers from Lund Stem Cell Center at Lund University to receive funding from Cancerfonden in their latest grant distribution. Her research focuses on endocrine cell development and function in the embryonic and adult pancreas. 

A small gland in the abdomen, the pancreas lies behind the lower part of the stomach. It releases enzymes that aid in digestion and produces hormones, including insulin, that help manage blood sugar levels in the body. Diabetes, pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer are three conditions that affect the pancreas, with the latter considered one of the most lethal types of cancer. This is because symptoms are not typically noticeable until the cancer has already progressed into late stages, making it more difficult to treat.

Pancreatic cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the pancreas begin to divide and grow uncontrollably, forming a tumor. When left untreated, these cancer cells can spread to surrounding blood vessels, organs, and other parts of the body. 

With support from Cancerfonden, Isabella Artner and her team of researchers within the Endocrine Cell Differentiation Research Group will work to identify common mechanisms controlling human pancreas and pancreatic cancer development. To do this, they will study developing and adult pancreatic tissue and compare it with tissue from a pancreas with cancer.

“Previous research indicates that certain genes are important during fetal development and are also very active during the development of pancreatic cancer. By studying tissue from embryos, we hope to find the mechanisms that drive cancer development in the pancreas,” explains Isabella Artner, Associate Professor and Principal Investigator at Lund Stem Cell Center and the Lund University Diabetes Center.

Despite numerous advances over the past several years, the only effective treatment for pancreatic cancer is surgery, as chemotherapy and immunotherapy tend to have little effect. By identifying the genes and mechanisms that control cancer development in the pancreas, Isabella and her team hope to accelerate the development of new drugs and treatments for patients with pancreatic cancer. 

Funding Basic Science to Advance Cancer Research

An additional ten research initiatives led by researchers at Lund Stem Cell Center will also move forward thanks to funding from Cancerfonden. These initiatives aim to broaden our understanding of the mechanisms and causes of various forms of cancer at biological and molecular levels. While the knowledge gained may not be immediately translatable to new treatments and cures, the resulting discoveries will provide needed information to make advancements in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer a reality.

Research Project Grant Recipients: