2023 New Treatment Grant - Dr Enyuan Cao

Targeting lymph-pancreas interactions to treat pancreatic cancer.

Dr Enyuan Cao is the lead investigator


Targeting lymph-pancreas interactions to treat pancreatic cancer


2023 New Treatment Grant


Monash University

Principal Investigator

Dr Enyuan Cao

Time required to complete project

2 years

Project Summary

Pancreatic cancer (PDAC) is one of the most lethal types of human cancer due to its aggressive nature and lack of effective treatments. Obesity further increases cancer risk by altering the metabolism of cancer cells. Sadly, enormous efforts in treatment development have not yet improved the survival rate nor the off-target effects. New therapeutic targets and treatments are critically needed. >70% of pancreatic cancers originate from the head of the pancreas, where the pancreas is connected to both the gut and adipose tissue. However, the factors that promote cancer formation in this area are unknown, and no clinically relevant model recapitulatesthis key pathological feature of PDAC. Our data reveal a previously undescribed crosstalk between the gut-draining lymphatics and pancreas where, especially in obesity, lymphaticssupplies energy source in the form of dietary lipids to the pancreas which modifies cancer cell metabolism and promote metastasis. We will: 1. Establish the first clinically relevant, PDAC model at the head of the pancreas to investigate the cause of cancer formation. 2. Examine how ‘obesity-associated lipids’ modify cancer metabolism and promote PDAC. 3. Stop PDAC by shutting shown the lymphatic ‘energy supply’ via targeting lymph-pancreas interactions with minimal off-target effects.

Prof Chris Porter, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Prof Erica Sloan, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences


This grant was made possible by Woolworths Limited through the Woolies Wheels and Walks and Tour de Cure collaboration which generously contributes a large portion of funds to the PanKind to be channelled into ground-breaking medical research.