2022/2023 Kenneth Warren Fellowships

IHPBA and the IHPBA Foundation are delighted to announce that, with the generous support of the E. Alexander Stent Fund (CGF), Bank of America, N.A., Trustee we have been able to award two Kenneth Warren Fellowships for 2022/23.

The 2022/2023 Kenneth Warren Fellowships have been awarded to Dr Samuel Cannas from the University of Pisa, Italy and Dr Elisabetta Sereni from The Pancreas Institute at the University of Verona, Italy. 

Dr. Cannas’ study is aimed at improving accuracy of staging of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma by combining multi-analyte liquid biopsies with advanced machine learning algorithms.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has a dismal five-year survival of only 9%. While curative-intent surgery remains an option for patients whose disease is confined to the pancreas, distinguishing these patients from those with metastases, who are unlikely to benefit from surgery, remains challenging due to the presence of occult metastases not detectable by standard of care imaging.
To address this scientific question, the study hypothesizes that a multi-analyte liquid biopsy can improve upon standard of care imaging for the diagnosis and staging of PDAC for resectable and locally advanced patients being considered for curative-intent surgery. Using machine learning approaches, Dr. Cannas will algorithmically detect and combine liquid biopsy analytes taken from a single tube of patient blood.
If successful, this study would directly lead to a larger, multi-institution study for final validation of a test that could be implemented in a CLIA environment to support clinical decision-making.
The study will be led by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Cannas will be working under the mentorship of Dr. Charles Vollmer and Dr. Erica Carpenter


The aim of Dr. Sereni's project is to characterize the phenotypic and transcriptomic Circulating Tumor Cell dynamics in pancreatic cancer.

This proposal is aimed at temporal assessment of CTC characteristics to validate their role as a biomarker of treatment response. Additionally, we aim to identify unique single-cell RNA sequencing based CTCs subtypes and evaluate the ability to use it as a biomarker for treatment response
Pancreatic cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths. The only potentially curative therapy is local control through oncologic resection and systemic control through chemotherapy. However, the majority of resected patients experiences treatment failure though progression of systemic minimal residual disease. Selecting appropriate therapies is seldom guided by tumor attributes resulting in exceptional responders, average responders, and rapid progressors. The major limitation to guiding therapy is the lack of biomarker-based tests for near “real-time” measurement of treatment response via assessment of minimal residual disease. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) have shown promise as potential biomarkers for non-invasive near “real-time” measurement of treatment response. Phenotypic heterogeneity has been observed in CTCs with two subtypes having been identified; those with epithelial features (eCTCs) and those with both epithelial and mesenchymal features (transitional CTCs). Quantitative and qualitative assessment of CTCs has demonstrated that CTCs characteristics change upon therapy and are associated with treatment response and outcomes.
If successful, findings of the study will help develop tools to guide personalized therapy in PDAC.

This proposal is designed in collaboration with the team at the Division of Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery at NYU Langone Health, under the mentorship of Dr. Christopher L. Wolfgang (mentor) and Dr. Ammar A. Javed (co-mentor).

We would like to congratulate Drs Cannas and Sereni on their achievement and wish them both all the best with their projects.

The IHPBA Foundation is extremely grateful to the E. Alexander Stent Fund (CGF), Bank of America, N.A., Trustee for their generous grant funding which has allowed us to offer these fellowships.    

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