Dali Sun, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, was awarded nearly $400,000 from the National Institutes of Health to study new ways to find and treat pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the disease. Pancreatic cancer usually shows little or no symptoms until it has advanced and spread, meaning most cases are diagnosed at later stages when it is difficult to treat. Stage IV pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of 1% and the average person diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer will live for about one year.
Sun’s research focuses on exosomes, small amounts of protein, DNA and RNA, that are released by cells and can be found in bodily fluids. His goal is to use the exosomes released by pancreatic cancer cells to both find the disease earlier and develop new treatments to fight it.
“Chemoradiation and systemic chemotherapy are the mainstay of treatment to slow disease progression at advanced stages. But these therapies cause various side effects,” Sun said. “This exosome-driven observation has the potential to help develop new treatments that selectively targets tumor cells, protects normal cells and increases the length and quality of life for patients.”
Sun’s work also creates an opportunity for NDSU undergraduate and graduate students to get hands-on experience working on cutting-edge biomedical research.
“We have six undergraduate students on our research team and they are all actively involved in the research. We welcome self-motivated students with various backgrounds to join,” Sun said.
NDSU has a history of leading the way in pancreatic cancer research. In addition to Sun’s work, the Center for Diagnostic and Therapeutic Strategies in Pancreatic Cancer at NDSU was formed in 2016 through a Center for Biomedical Research Excellence grant awarded through the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
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