Project title: Spatial transcriptomic profiling of the PanNET tumor microenvironment

Christopher Heaphy, PhD Boston Medical Center

Christopher Heaphy, PhD
  • Status: Active
  • Year(s): 2022
  • Grant Type: Pilot
  • Research Type: Basic
  • Primary Tumor Site: Pancreas
  • Area of Inquiry: Tumor Microenvironment


Dr. Heaphy, in collaboration with Dr. Ruben Dries (Boston Medical Center), will comprehensively profile PanNETs by integrating spatial transcriptomics with established biomarkers to accurately map these tumors and explore their biological underpinnings.

What critical NET problem/question will researchers try to answer?

While new biomarkers have been identified and validated, these biomarkers only capture the molecular alterations in the cancer cells. Spatial information in the tumor and tumor microenvironment, including the immune cell populations, are still not fully understood. 

Why is this important?

Integrative spatial transcriptomics profiling has the ability to capture patient heterogeneity and provide novel insights to better understand the biology.

What will the researchers do?

The team will uncover the underlying processes driving tumor initiation and progression in PanNETs, using innovative technologies, state-of-the-art research methodologies, and multidisciplinary collaborations between investigators with expertise in molecular cancer biology (Heaphy Lab) and implementation of novel technologies and computational approaches to view multi-cellular ecosystems (Dries Lab).

How might this improve treatment of NETs?

Profiling the tumor microenvironment may reveal the genetic, cellular, and structural components that create an immunosuppressive microenvironment that causes a lack of response to immuno-oncology therapies.

What is the next step?

Documenting the organization and crosstalk of the tumor microenvironment may lead to improved stratification and prediction of how patients might respond to treatment. For example, data from this project will serve as the foundation for improved biomarker stratification and identification of potential novel druggable targets within both the cancer and non-cancer segments of the tumor microenvironment.

Additional Details

  • City: Boston
  • State: MA
  • Country: United States
  • Grant Duration: 1 year


NETRF funds laboratory research to understand the development of neuroendocrine tumors and translational research to explore new concepts in treatment. Research grant descriptions and research updates from NETRF are not intended to serve as medical advice. It can take years for research discoveries to be fully validated and approved for patient care. Always consult your health care providers about your treatment options.

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