Pancreas Cancer Research at UW Carbone Cancer Center

In the lab, surgeon-scientist Sean Ronnekleiv-Kelly, MD, studies the formation and progression of pancreatic cancer. He is especially interested in two types of 'environmental sensor' pathways that have strong correlations with cancer development and progression. These pathways have not been researched extensively in pancreatic cancer.


One of these pathways involves the signaling protein, the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). AhR is known for its role in modifying the immune response to different pathologic states and Dr. Ronnekleiv-Kelly aims to understand whether AhR can promote immune cell attack of pancreas cancer. The other pathway involves proteins in the same family as AhR, and these proteins function to regulate circadian rhythms (circadian clock proteins). Dr. Ronnekleiv-Kelly explores how circadian disruption due to altered light / dark cycles (i.e. irregular sleep patterns) affect the progression of pancreatic cancer in a mouse model.


"Circadian rhythm disruption is a common occurrence in humans, especially among night shift workers and physicians," he says, noting that there is substantial evidence associating irregular sleep patterns with obesity and diabetes, which are risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer.


By understanding how these proteins are involved in pancreatic cancer, Dr. Ronnekleiv-Kelly seeks to discover new treatments to target this deadly disease.


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