Translate this website into the following languages:

Close Tab
UC San Diego Health
menu iconMenu
search iconSearch

Pancreatic Cancer Research

Our physician-scientists take a four-prong approach to learning more about diagnosing and improving survival rates for pancreatic cancer.

Diagnosis at the Earliest Stages

The goal is to develop a simple blood test to help detect pancreatic cancer at an early stage.  Researchers are using highly sophisticated protein-detection systems to identify the marker that serves as a signature in patients with early pancreatic cancer. Thus far, they’ve found candidate markers that need to be evaluated over the next couple of years.

Prevent the Rapid Spread of Pancreatic Cancer

A major problem with pancreatic cancer is its ability to metastasize (spread) very fast, invading other healthy organs. One of our recent discoveries is an enzyme in pancreatic cancer cells that seems to turn on metastatic disease. Currently in studies on experimental models, a method to detect this enzyme may soon be available for human clinical trials.

A Drug to Stop Pancreatic Cancer in its Tracks

Scientists know that pancreatic cancer involves angiogenesis, the development of new blood vessels. They’ve also learned that the cancer incorporates certain molecular pathways in the body that are important to the tumor’s growth and its invasive ability. With this information, UC San Diego researchers have uncovered a class of drugs that may prevent the cancer from accessing the blood supply.

They are taking a two-prong approach:

  1. Attacking the cancer cells directly, causing them to die prematurely
  2. Attacking the blood vessels within the pancreatic cancer itself.

Currently in pre-clinical studies with experimental models, the therapy may be available for human clinical trials within the next couple of years.

Smart Bombs to Seek Out and Destroy

Our researchers have designed nanoparticles that act as “smart bombs” to deliver a payload of drugs selectively to tumor blood vessels, thus sparing normal tissue surrounding the cancer. This will allow for the delivery of very strong anti-cancer drugs. Currently in pre-clinical trials, this therapy may be available for human clinical trials in two or three years.

Cancer Centers Council: C3-Pacreatic Cancer Research Group

To leverage the collaborative opportunities offered by the close proximity of 3 NCI-designated cancer centers in San Diego for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and ultimate cure of cancer. We will achieve this by:

  • Facilitating collaborative cancer research
  • Leveraging resources, including shared resources, and expertise
  • Organizing joint scientific initiatives
  • Facilitating interactions with other research entities in the public and private sector

Tremendous Hope on the Horizon

In recent years, remarkable progress has been made in the battle against all types of cancer.  While there is still no known cure for pancreatic cancer, researchers believe they are getting closer to techniques for earlier diagnosis, new therapies to stop the cancer’s spread, and possible curative treatments. 

At UC San Diego, scientific studies are particularly exciting. For example, our researchers have developed mouse models of human pancreatic cancer that allow them to study all stages of the disease, from pre-invasive to metastatic. In addition, our physician-scientists are preparing clinical trials for the investigation of new therapies.

With an ever increasing understanding of the genetics and molecular biology of pancreatic cancer, UC San Diego’s team of brilliant scientists believe we may be only a few years away from hopeful news. 

Appointments & Referrals


La Jolla

Meet Our Specialists

Clinical Trials

Patient Education

Learn more about pancreatic cancer in our Health Library:

News Articles and Videos

Our bimonthly newsletter delivers healthy lifestyle tips, patient stories and research discovery news. Subscribe: