Models of NETs using 3D hydrogels

Charlotte Kuperwasser, PhD

Year: 2018
Institution: Trustees of Tufts College (Tufts University)
Country: United States
State: MA
Award Type: Pilot
NET Type: Gastrointestinal
Science Type: Basic


Dr. Bart Rose’s research project focuses on understanding the epigenetic differences driving disparate outcomes between Black and Caucasian patients with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs). His project involves confirming the differences in epigenetic modulators and gene expression and using that information to determine the different methylation status and gene expression in resected specimens from patients who have PNETs.

What question will you try to answer through your research?

Research has uncovered disparities in the clinical outcomes between Caucasian and minority patients with PNETs, particularly Black patients. Black patients with PNETs are more likely to present with metastatic disease, are less likely to undergo curative surgery, and have a 20% worse overall survival than white patients. However, Black patients who have their tumors resected have the same overall survival as white patients. Dr. Rose and his colleagues are working to determine which epigenetic mutation is driving early tumor metastasis in Black patients.

Why is this important?

The differences in DNA methylation between Black and Caucasian patients who have PNETs have not been investigated, despite the fact that differences have been found with respect to other cancers, such as breast, prostate, colon, and endometrial cancer. A better understanding of these driver mutations may therefore provide insight into new drugs to treat advanced PNET disease.

What will you do as part of this research project?

We will explore the epigenetic differences in PNETs through complex sequencing experiments as well as cutting-edge microscopic evaluations looking at the interaction between patients’ normal cells and the immune system.

How might your research improve the treatment of NETs?

We hope to identify new mutations that can be targeted in the future by drugs specific to neuroendocrine tumors, especially those present in Black patients with PNETs.

What is the next step?

We have already started collecting the tumor specimens from our patients and will start the sequencing analysis later this year.