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Jen Jen Yeh speaks at a podium at the 2024 UNC Lineberger Scientific Symposium.

2024 UNC Lineberger Scientific Symposium

UNC Lineberger’s 47th annual scientific symposium on May 21-22 brought together more than 250 people in person and virtually to hear talks on the latest developments in pancreatic cancer research.

The day-and-a-half meeting was chaired by Jen Jen Yeh, MD, and included 17 presentations from faculty at UNC Lineberger and institutions across the United States.


“The idea to highlight pancreatic cancer started several years ago. The field has seen many advances but there is still so much more to be done. To this end, for this symposium we decided to include leaders and innovators in the pancreatic cancer field and in drug discovery to inspire all of us to think about new areas of collaboration and new approaches to treat pancreatic cancer,” said Yeh, director of the UNC Lineberger Pancreatic Cancer Center of Excellence and professor of surgery and pharmacology at UNC School of Medicine.

“The symposium is a testament to the vision of Joe Pagano, who started the symposium in 1977 to bring colleagues from across the country to Chapel Hill to learn about the great research being conducted at our newly established cancer center and at UNC overall,” said UNC Lineberger Director Shelley Earp, MD. This year’s symposium demonstrated how much faster the global research community has become in translating fundamental science and putting the discoveries into the clinic. There were fabulous talks about some remarkable advances in chemistry that have allowed us to drug the undruggable and how we’re changing care for pancreatic cancer.”

The symposium featured talks by Vinod Balachandran, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; James Christensen, PhD, Bristol Myers Squibb; Elizabeth Jaffee, MD, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins; Marina Pasca di Magliano, PhD, University of Michigan Medical School; Kimberly Perez, MD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; William Sellers, MD, Broad Institute; Mallika Singh, PhD, Revolution Medicines; Susan Tsai, MD, Ohio State University; Robert Vonderheide, MD, PhD, Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine; Laura Wood, MD, PhD, Johns Hopkins; and Kirsten Bryant, PhD, Channing Der, PhD, John Morris, PhD, and Yuliya Pylayeva-Gupta, PhD, of UNC Lineberger.

Der’s presentation mainly focused on the state-of-the-art for therapies directed at KRAS, the predominant gene mutation in pancreatic cancer, and current clinical care for pancreatic cancer, which was a topic that took center stage for many of the talks.

“KRAS dominates the genetic landscape of pancreatic cancer as nearly 100% of pancreatic cancers have mutations to the KRAS gene, so clearly if we can target mutant KRAS we can make a significant impact on pancreatic cancer treatment,” said Der, the Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology at UNC School of Medicine. “It took nearly four decades, but we now have approved KRAS inhibitors we can use in the clinic. Some might say it is time for us to study something more interesting, like the MYC gene, but I think this clinical advance actually marks not the end of the road for KRAS research but rather a beginning of new efforts.”

By providing a livestream of the symposium, UNC Lineberger extended the meeting’s reach to  participants from academic, medical and governmental institutions and foundations in North Carolina, the U.S. and Asia, including from Atrium Health; Duke University; Emory University; Komagome Hospital, Japan; Medical University of South Carolina; and Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology, China.