Pancreatic cancer precision medicine project
Light blue digital illustration of DNA strand

Pancreatic cancer precision medicine project

Project Duration: [2016-2025]

MOHCCN Consortium: BC Cancer Consortium

Investigators: Daniel Renouf, David Schaeffer

Partners: BC Cancer, Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, Pancreas Centre BC, Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre

 Project goals:

  1. To integrate multiple levels of data including tumour genome and transcriptome data, clinical data and blood circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) analysis in order to identify distinct tumour molecular profiles correlated with prognosis, and discover new actionable targets for treatment development.
  2. To enable precision medicine in individual patients by developing clinically scalable tumour profiling approaches including gene expression and immunohistochemistry protein biomarker panels for use in clinical biospecimens.
  3. To develop a pre-clinical model research platform to accelerate the discovery and translational impact of novel biomarker-driven treatments.


The overall five-year survival rate in pancreatic cancer has been rising at a slow pace and only recently reached 10%. Despite some improvements in treatments available to pancreatic cancer patients, therapy choices continue to be limited in part by the resistance that some tumours develop to those therapies.  Further progress in the development of novel treatment strategies is desperately needed to improve outcomes for the over 5000 Canadians diagnosed annually with pancreatic cancer. The development of more effective treatments requires better understanding of the genetic diversity of tumours and biological molecules found in bodily fluids (such as blood) and tissues which are associated with prognosis and treatment sensitivity in individual patients. Our team strives to accelerate progress in personalized genome medicine in pancreatic cancer through multi-centre initiatives combining unparalleled expertise in clinical trial leadership and outcome data analysis, state-of-the-art tumour genomic profiling, bioinformatics and scientific analysis, and translation of knowledge into clinical practice. We aim to generate a shareable database of comprehensive pancreatic tumour genetic sequencing and clinical data to help build the Marathon of Hope ‘Gold Cohort’ of clinically annotated cancer genomes.

Our research captures all stages of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), including resectable PDAC accounting for about 20% of cases and locally advanced and metastatic PDAC, accounting for 80% of cases. We focus on identifying clinically relevant molecular subtypes of pancreatic cancers including discovery of actionable targets, which are unique molecular traits in some tumours which can be targeted with new therapies. The knowledge generated through our research will help develop individually-tailored therapies with the ultimate goal to improve outcomes for patients with pancreatic cancer.