Christopher Halbrook Receives MERIT Award to Support Pancreatic Cancer Research

June 25, 2024
Christopher Halbrook

Christopher Halbrook, Assistant Professor at the Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences, has achieved a significant milestone in his research career by receiving the Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). This prestigious grant, designed to support long-term research projects for early-stage investigators, is a testament to Professor Halbrook’s innovative work in the field of pancreatic cancer, specifically pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA).

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most challenging cancers to treat, primarily due to its dense and fibrotic tumor environment that resists conventional therapies. Professor Halbrook’s project, which initially secured a five-year grant of $2.25 million, has now been extended by an additional two years through the MERIT Award, bringing the total funding to at least $3.125 million over seven years. This extension reflects the NCI’s recognition of the potential impact of his research.

Professor Halbrook’s groundbreaking approach focuses on understanding and disrupting the metabolic interactions within pancreatic tumors. His team has identified that pancreatic cancer cells form distinct subpopulations with varying metabolic characteristics. These subpopulations engage in nutrient exchanges that bolster their survival and resistance to treatments targeting their mitochondria. By targeting these metabolic exchanges, Professor Halbrook aims to dismantle the cancer cells’ ability to support each other, making them more vulnerable to existing therapies.

The implications of Professor Halbrook’s research are profound. By breaking down the supportive interactions within pancreatic tumors, his findings could revolutionize how we treat this aggressive cancer, offering new hope to patients. The extended funding from the MERIT Award will allow Professor Halbrook to delve deeper into these mechanisms and generate critical pre-clinical data, potentially informing future clinical trials and improving therapeutic strategies.

Professor Halbrook’s work, building on his significant findings published in Nature Cancer in 2022, underscores the critical importance of sustained research efforts in the battle against pancreatic cancer. His receipt of the MERIT Award represents a major step forward in the quest to develop more effective treatments for one of the most lethal forms of cancer.

Learn more about Professor Halbrook’s research.

Data used to secure this award was obtained through generous support from the National Pancreas Foundation, V Foundation for Cancer Research, the American Pancreatic Association, and the UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge program.