July 17, 2006 

WORCESTER, Mass. - University of Massachusetts Medical School Assistant Professor of Molecular Medicine Brian Lewis, PhD, has been recognized with the 2006-2008 American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) Career Development Award. Established by the AACR in response to the need to bolster resources for pancreatic cancer research, the award honors an early career investigator who shows outstanding promise in the field. Dr. Lewis was selected for his proposal, Pancreatic tumor induction by activated notch signaling; the selection committee indicated that they were impressed by Lewis's initiative and distinction as an investigator as reflected by the research proposal. 

"I am humbled by this acknowledgment and would like to thank the AACR for the honor of being chosen," said Lewis. "The funds from this award will provide the required resources for the successful pursuit of this research direction within the laboratory." 

Although it is ranked as the 11th most common of cancers, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Approximately 30,000 cases are newly diagnosed each year, with an equal number of deaths from the disease in the same timeframe. Since joining UMMS in 2003 as a faculty member of the Program in Gene Function and Expression, Lewis has worked to develop better research models for pancreatic cancer utilizing the most recent technology. His laboratory is interested in understanding how specific genetic alterations commonly found in this disease contribute to tumor initiation and progression
With the support of the AACR-PanCAN funds, Lewis will study the role of the notch signaling pathway, which has been found in a large subset of samples of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the most common form of the multitude of pancreatic cancers accounting for nearly 90 percent of all diagnoses. His research will explore the consequences of activated notch signaling on the target cells of this particular cancer, especially whether this signaling induces the proliferation and survival of the cells. "We believe that our studies will shed light on the role of notch signaling in the development of pancreatic tumors and identify whether the notch signaling pathway is a good therapeutic target in this disease," Lewis explained.

"This is an extraordinary achievement for Brian, and is a testament to the cutting-edge, high quality research being done in his lab.  We applaud the American Association for Cancer Research for their commitment to identify and fund the most talented young investigators working in this field," said Director of the Program in Gene Function and Expression and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Michael R. Green, MD, PhD, the Lambi and Sarah Adams Chair in Genetic Research. 

The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, AACR is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes more than 24,000 basic, translational, and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 60 other countries. AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. AACR publishes five major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; and Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research.  The Medical School attracts more than $174 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. UMMS is the academic partner of UMass Memorial Health Care, the largest health care provider in Central Massachusetts. For more information visit . 

Contact:  Kelly Bishop