By Bill Hendrick

St. Joseph’s Hospital and Georgia Tech have joined to start the first regional research program to study the genetics and cell biology of pancreatic cancer.

Scientists at both institutions are studying tissue and serum samples from patients with cancer, hoping to identify the differences in genetic and cellular features between tumor and normal cells.

The institutions say they hope the research will be used to develop tests for early diagnosis and lead to targeted therapies to treat pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of the disease.

“The traditional treatment philosophy of one size fits all is quickly becoming obsolete,” said Dr. George Daneker, the medical director of oncology research at St. Joseph’s and co-principal investigator of the study. “No two individuals are alike, nor are two cancers. Each is unique based on genetic and protein makeup.”

The research is the first to focus on pancreatic cancer, which is similar to ovarian cancer in that it often goes undetected until it has progressed too far to be cured. It is the cancer afflicting movie star Patrick Swayze.

Daneker said the research will focus on screening and early detection.

“Georgia Tech has the most advanced technology and the scientists who can help move these bench research projects closer to bedside treatments for patients at a very rapid rate,” Daneker said. “St. Joseph’s brings the clinical expertise to take the treatments directly to the patient faster.”