PHOENIX, ARIZONA — MAY 23, 2023 — A $726,000 donation from Atlanta-based charity Purple Pansies will support a TGen-led clinical trial designed to increase a patient’s unfolded protein response (UPR) to push the cancer cells to reach a state of programmed cell death. UPR is a cellular defense mechanism that, when triggered, sends signals to the cell’s nucleus to restore balance and ensure that proteins are folded properly, which is essential for normal cell function.
Led by Daniel D. Von Hoff, M.D., Distinguished Professor at TGen and City of Hope, the strategy is to selectively target and kill pancreatic cancer cells by increasing their UPR to intensify the stress on the cancer cells so that their protective mechanisms become overwhelmed, leading to the death of the tumor cells. Pancreatic cancer cells are resilient and can survive under various stressful conditions. Only the strongest of those cells are able to avoid the body’s immune system, grow in low oxygen environments, thrive in areas with inflammation and scarring, and withstand aggressive treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.
“To effectively treat pancreatic cancer, we need to increase the stress on these cancer cells to trigger the natural biological process called programmed cell death, similar to how leaves fall off a tree in the autumn. Pushing these cells to reach a state of programmed cell death could potentially eliminate the tumor,” said Von Hoff.
Founded in 2009 by Atlanta businesswoman and restauranteur Maria Fundora, following her mother’s death from pancreatic cancer in 2007, Purple Pansies mission is to offer immediate support in the form of emergency grants and scholarships to individuals and families affected by pancreatic cancer, while funding research and clinical trials to conquer this devastating disease. Fundora’s goal is to honor her mother’s memory and make a lasting difference in the lives of others through compassion and generosity.
“Purple Pansies has proudly supported TGen and Dr. Von Hoff for over a decade now,” said Fundora, “And now, as part of City of Hope, I’m even more confident that our support can help make a difference. They care about the patient. That is their drive. They are focused on new treatments and improving survival. If something’s not working, they look elsewhere to try to make things work. And in the world of pancreatic cancer, that means so much to patients.”
To date, Purple Pansies has raised over $5 million, contributing to advances against the disease. By raising public awareness they help foster a greater understanding of the value of scientific advancements and the critical role research plays in improving human health.
“We are grateful to Maria and the entire Purple Pansies organization,” said Erin Massey, Chief Development Officer at TGen, and Vice President of Philanthropy at City of Hope. “Their partnership and support have been instrumental in allowing Dr. Von Hoff and his team to drive progress, improve patient outcomes, and most importantly, provide hope to patients challenged by one of the toughest cancers to treat.”
Pancreatic cancer is a serious and relatively rare form of cancer with approximately 495,000 new cases diagnosed annually worldwide. The five-year survival rate is now 12%, however, survival rates can vary depending on the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed and other individual factors. Currently, the 5-year survival for patients with stage I disease is more than 5 years. Several factors can increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, including age, smoking, family history of pancreatic cancer, obesity, chronic pancreatitis, and certain inherited genetic conditions.