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  • Posted Wednesday February 23, 2022

‘Purple Pansies’ donates $1 million in support of TGen pre-clinical study

Disrupting cancer cells’ ability to formulate proteins could open door to improved treatment of pancreatic cancer

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Feb. 23, 2022 — A $1.05 million gift from Atlanta-based charity Purple Pansies will support a pre-clinical study led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope, that builds on a series of successful treatments developed by TGen.

Led by Daniel D. Von Hoff, M.D., Distinguished Professor at TGen and City of Hope, the study will test the addition of agents molecularly designed to stress cancer cells in combination with a triple-drug regimen of gemcitabine, nab-paclitaxel, and cisplatin that has previously shown considerable promise against pancreatic cancer.

The agents target a function within human cells called endoplasmic reticulum, or ER, which keeps the body’s metabolism in balance. Technically, ER ensures the correct “folding” of proteins, a process that is critical to the proper function of each cell. By disrupting this process researchers hope to weaken the cancer cells so the triple-drug combination can destroy them. In essence, Dr. Von Hoff would like to give these pancreatic cancer cells a “nervous breakdown.”

“We are proud to partner with Dr. Von Hoff and TGen to fund the unfolded protein response (UPR),” said Maria Fundora, Founder, Purple Pansies. “We recognize research and clinical trials are vital to patient care and increased survival rate among pancreatic cancer patients.”

Fundora founded Purple Pansies in memory of her mother, Iluminada Milian, who she lost to pancreatic cancer in 2007. Since that time, the organization has contributed more than $3.4 million in support of TGen research and clinical trials.

“Maria and the entire Purple Pansies organization are testament to the power of collaboration, and I am hopeful that through their latest support we can bring more effective treatments to pancreatic cancer patients,” said Dr. Von Hoff, considered one of the nation’s leading experts on pancreatic cancer — having helped develop three regimens approved by the FDA for improving survival of patients with stage IV disease.

Erin Massey, Chief Development Officer for the TGen Foundation, said this new study is made possible by the generosity of Purple Pansies, a named derived from the fact that purple is the color representing pancreatic cancer research, and the pansy is known for its resilience and ability to flourish in tough conditions.

“Maria Fundora’s dedication toward supporting the development of improved treatments for pancreatic cancer patients is tireless and serves as an inspiration for us all,” said Massey. “What began as a tribute to her mother has become something much larger and with far reaching hope.”

If successful, the study will lead to a clinical trial for patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma whose cancer has metastasized, or spread, to other parts of the body.

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About TGen, an affiliate of City of Hope
Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based nonprofit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life-changing results. TGen is affiliated with City of Hope, a world-renowned independent research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases:  This precision medicine affiliation enables both institutes to complement each other in research and patient care, with City of Hope providing a significant clinical setting to advance scientific discoveries made by TGen. TGen is focused on helping patients with neurological disorders, cancer, diabetes and infectious diseases through cutting-edge translational research (the process of rapidly moving research toward patient benefit). TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and complex rare diseases in adults and children. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities worldwide, TGen makes a substantial contribution to help our patients through efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: Follow TGen on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter @TGen.

Media Contact:
Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer
[email protected]

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