Pancreatic biomarkers group
My research focuses on molecular pathology of pancreatic cancer, in particular its development and progression. We are using this knowledge to develop biomarkers for early, non-invasive detection of this malignancy in urine specimens.
A combination of urinary biomarker panel and PancRISK score for earlier detection of pancreatic cancer: A case-control study. PLOS Medicine (2020) In press
Perineural invasion in pancreatic cancer: proteomic analysis and in vitro modelling. Mol Oncol (2019) 13(5):1075-1091. PMID: 30690892
Non-invasive Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer Through Detection of Volatile Organic Compounds in Urine. Gastroenterology (2018) 154(3):485-487. PMID: 29129714
ER stress protein AGR2 precedes and is involved in the regulation of pancreatic cancer initiation. Oncogene (2017) 36(22):3094-3103. PMID: 27941872
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has been deemed a ‘silent killer’, as it is asymptomatic at an early stage; more than 80% of patients therefore present with already disseminated disease, when curative surgery is not possible any more. Current treatments for such patients are largely inefficient, and their median survival is only 3-6 months. Overall five-year survival for pancreatic cancer patients is less than 5%.
We have therefore set ourselves a goal of making a difference for pancreatic cancer patients by developing a non-invasive test for early detection of PDAC.
This is based on a thorough understanding of developmental biology of this malignancy, stemming from analysis of the most common precursor lesions, PanINs, as a key source of potential early disease markers (PLOS One, 2013).
In addition, we performed an in-depth analysis of easily obtainable biofluid, urine (Proteom Clin Appl, 2008), and have recently described a panel of three protein biomarkers that can detect stage I-II PDAC with >90% accuracy (Clin Cancer Res, 2015).
We have recently further validated this urinary biomarker panel in additional retrospectively collected samples, and developed a PancRISK score that enables us to stratify the patients into the ones with high or normal risk of developing pancreatic cancer. In addition, standardised LDT assays for the 3 biomarkers are currently being developed by 3rd Street Diagnostics, Cedars Sinai Medical Centre, LA and the affiliated CLIA/CAP ResearchDx laboratory at Irvine, CA. This is critical for evaluation of the biomarkers and PancRISK score further within a large prospective clinical study, UroPanc.
In addition to proteins, we have also profiled miRNAs (Am J Cancer Res, 2015) and volatile organic compounds in urine (Gastroenterology, 2018), and have recently started interrogating the utility of urinary ctDNA for mutation detection using ddPCR. Our final goal is to develop a highly accurate, multiomics-based ‘combo’, non-invasive test for early detection of pancreatic cancer. This, we believe, will make a true impact on currently exceptionally poor prognosis of pancreatic cancer patients.
In addition to biomarker work, we are also interested in understanding the roles of two proteins, AGR2 and S100P (and its binding partner S100PBP), in pancreatic cancer. Both of these proteins are highly expressed in PanINs, primary PDACs and metastatic lesions, and also facilitate dissemination of pancreatic cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo (J Pathol 2003; Cancer Res, 2007; Cancer Res, 2011; Clin Exp Metastasis, 2013; Oncogene, 2017), and are therefore potentially promising therapeutic targets.
Finally, we have recently started studying EOPC – early onset pancreatic cancer, in order to decipher why this subgroup of patients is developing PDAC when they are around 20 years younger than the ‘classical’ PDAC patient population. Epidemiology and pathobiology of this poorly studied patient group is ongoing.
A multilayered post-GWAS assessment on genetic susceptibility to pancreatic cancer López de Maturana E, Rodríguez JA, Alonso L et al. Genome Medicine (2021) 13(7)
Deciphering the complex interplay between pancreatic cancer, diabetes mellitus subtypes and obesity/BMI through causal inference and mediation analyses Molina-Montes E, Coscia C, Gómez-Rubio P et al. Gut (2021) 70(7) 319-329
A combination of urinary biomarker panel and PancRISK score for earlier detection of pancreatic cancer: A case-control study Debernardi S, O'Brien H, Algahmdi AS et al. PLoS Medicine (2020) 17(7)
EARLY DETECTION OF PANCREATIC ADENOCARCINOMA IN ‘AT-RISK’ POPULATIONS USING A BIOMARKER PANEL IN URINE (UROPANC) Crnogorac-Jurcevic T, Debernardi S, Jach D et al. Pancreatology (2020) 20(10) e14
A combination of urinary biomarker panel and PancRISK score for earlier detection of pancreatic cancer Debernardi S, Jach D, Brezgyte G et al. Pancreatology (2020) 20(10) s128
S100PBP is regulated by mutated KRAS and plays a tumour suppressor role in pancreatic cancer Srivastava K, Lines K, Jach D et al. Pancreatology (2020) 20(10) s82
Response to the comment on "Development of PancRISK, a urine biomarker-based risk score for stratified screening of pancreatic cancer patients". Blyuss O, Crnogorac-Jurcevic T Br J Cancer (2020) 123(2) 1468
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for the non-invasive detection of pancreatic cancer from urine Daulton E, Wicaksono AN, Tiele A et al. Talanta (2021) 221(1)
Discovery of novel small molecule inhibitors of S100P with in vitro anti-metastatic effects on pancreatic cancer cells Camara R, Ogbeni D, Gerstmann L et al. European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry (2020) (1) 112621-112621
Pancreatic cancer risk in relation to lifetime smoking patterns, tobacco type, and dose-response relationships Molina-Montes E, van Hoogstraten L, Gomez-Rubio P et al. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention (2020) 29(7) 1009-1018For additional publications, please click here
I obtained the MBBS degree and completed an MD thesis at the Medical Faculty, University of Zagreb in Croatia, and my PhD at the Imperial College School of Medicine in London. After a postdoctoral experience in molecular biology at CNRS in Toulouse, France and molecular oncology at CRUK laboratory at Hammersmith Hospital, London, I joined Barts Cancer Institute in November 2004.
In addition to research, my teaching responsibilities include Problem Based Learning (PBL) and Student Selective Component (SSC) for undergraduate students. I am Module Leader for Genomic Approaches to Cancer, a core module on the MSc/PGDip Cancer & Molecular Pathology and Genomics, MSc/PGDip Cancer & Molecular and Cellular Biology and MSc/PGDip Cancer & Therapeutics courses.
In 2006 I was awarded a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) and became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2009.