UCy professor secures €2.5m funding for pancreatic cancer research project

University of Cyprus Professor Triantafyllos Stylianopoulos has received €2.5m in funding from the European Research Council to continue his research into fighting drug-resistance in pancreatic cancer – namely, his MechanoResistance project.

“I feel honoured and thankful to the European Research Council (ERC) for the continuous support of my research, first with an ERC Starting Grant, currently with an ERC Consolidator and now with an ERC Advanced Grant as well as with 3 Proof of Concepts,” Prof. Stylianopoulos said announcing the news. “I will continue to deliver and promote research and academic excellence at the University of Cyprus, in Cyprus and Europe. “

He went on to thank the members of the Cancer Biophysics Laboratory for their commitment, as well as his collaborators Maria Kalli and John D. Martin for supporting him in the preparation of the proposal. He also thanked the German Oncology Center and Dr Constantinos Zamboglou for supporting the clinical study of the proposal.

“I look forward to working with all of them on this exciting and of urgent clinical need project,” the professor concluded.

The MechanoResistance project – which was also selected by the ERC among six examples of projects proposed by leading researchers, based in Denmark, Germany, France, Spain, Cyprus, and Poland – explores ways of overcoming mechanically-induced resistance to chemo-immunotherapy in pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Europe, behind lung, colorectal, and breast cancer. Thus, developing novel therapeutic strategies is considered an urgent need to save human lives.

As in other solid cancers, a major obstacle to treatment is the compression of tumour blood vessels, drastically reducing delivery of drugs to cancer cells. In recent years, Triantafyllos Stylianopoulos found a method to make it easier for drugs to reach the tumour. Nevertheless, he observed the phenomenon of "mechanoresistance" in which intratumoral mechanical forces promote resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapy.

With his interdisciplinary team, he will tackle this rarely studied problem. His plan is to first employ a mixture of cutting-edge bioengineering and biology methods to identify the intracellular mechanisms that lead to mechanoresistance. Then, Prof. Stylianopoulos will use different drugs to see if they can counteract mechanoresistance to increase the efficacy of chemotherapy. Overall, his project aims to design new, personalised treatments for pancreatic cancer and make a difference for patients.

Triantafyllos Stylianopoulos moved from the US to the University of Cyprus in 2013, where he could establish a state-of-the-art lab thanks to ERC support through a Starting Grant, a Consolidator Grant and three Proof of Concept grants.

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