Department of Kinesiology and Health alumnus Calvin Cole (Ph.D. ’16) received a five-year, $713,515 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) to better understand and treat the mechanisms of pancreatic cancer-related muscle wasting.
Pancreatic cancer occurs in a person’s gastrointestinal tract. Research has yet to discover any biological markers that help doctors diagnose it until the disease is in its more advanced stages.
In the advanced stages, patients often experience muscle wasting, or a severe loss of muscle mass. This loss of lean mass hinders the patient’s ability to complete everyday tasks, such as walking up stairs or carrying groceries, and complicates cancer treatment.
“When pancreatic cancer patients start to lose this muscle mass, they become frail and can’t undergo survival surgeries to remove their tumors,” Cole explained. “By preserving muscle mass, we can increase patients’ chance of survival so they can get chemotherapy or undergo surgery.”
Cole, an assistant professor in the University of Rochester’s Department of Surgery and its Center for Musculoskeletal Research, has worked with other researchers to develop a pancreatic cancer model that mirrors the muscle wasting patients experience. He will use the NCI funding to test a variety of treatments, including immunotherapy, in the model to see if they reduce muscle wasting.
“To understand if those are the best treatments, you have to first understand the biological mechanisms that cause muscle wasting. Then, I can actually translate those into clinical treatments,” he said.
For more information about Cole’s grant, visit https://reporter.nih.gov/search/jL_SaBkuzUCIC98Wh-bwWw/project-details/10299703.