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Rafael Fridman, Ph.D., Awarded $50,000 Grant from Sky Foundation, Inc., for Pancreatic Cancer Research


Representatives from the Sky Foundation, Inc., visited recently with Rafael Fridman, Ph.D., in his lab to hear more about his innovative pancreatic cancer research. From left are: Dave Calver, volunteer; Sheila Sky Kasselman, founder, Sky Foundation, Inc.; Dr. Fridman; and Carol Quigley, board president.

Rafael Fridman, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Pathology at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine, was awarded the Sky Foundation, Inc.’s first competitive scientific research grant of $50,000 for his innovative work in pancreatic cancer.

“It’s a privilege to award Dr. Fridman the Sky Foundation’s first $50,000 competitive scientific grant for his novel, collaborative approach to pancreatic cancer research,” said Sheila Sky Kasselman, pancreatic cancer survivor and founder of the Sky Foundation, Inc.

“Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, yet it continues to be radically underfunded. Our mission is to raise funds for research grants to help supplement government funding by providing direct support to scientists who offer new approaches in the prevention and early detection of pancreatic cancer. We believe Dr. Fridman’s work is worthy of this distinction.”

Dr. Fridman’s research is looking at how pancreatic cancer cells respond to their microenvironment, specifically how the cells respond to collagen, a major protein that surrounds tumor cells. Collagen can promote tumor growth and interfere with the efficacy of chemotherapy. Dr. Fridman's research is focused on disrupting the interaction of pancreatic cancer cells with collagen by targeting a key collagen receptor known as Discoidin Domain Receptor (DDR) that is present in the tumor cells. DDRs signals to the cells, instructing them how to respond to the surrounding collagen. This process encourages the cancer cells to grow and to become highly malignant. 

Dr. Fridman is collaborating with Howard Crawford, Ph.D., at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida for this research. Dr. Fridman and his team will be studying how DDRs works when pancreatic cells are growing within collagen and then attempt to block its function to see how this affects the cancer cells. In addition, Dr. Fridman will study the expression of DDRs in human tissues derived from pancreatic cancer patients. The ultimate goal is to be able to target these receptors and block their function with a specific inhibitor in the hope that this will disrupt the communication between the pancreatic cancer cells with collagen, allowing cancer treatments to be more effective.

“Our research identifies a potential new target for the treatment of pancreatic cancer that holds the promise to improve diagnosis and treatment. We want to contribute to the expansion of the arsenal of drugs against pancreatic cancer,” said Dr. Fridman.


Dr. Fridman added, "My deepest gratitude to the Sky Foundation for providing support to our research. I am honored and humbled to receive this generous award to further our research and hopefully contribute to the common goal of improving current treatments for pancreatic cancer patients."

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