Innovative Research Opens the Door to ACS Grant for Dr. Russell Pachynski

The American Cancer Society recently awarded 90 new Research and Cancer Development Grants funding researchers at 67 institutions nationwide. These grantees are leading innovative discoveries that advance the ACS mission to end cancer for everyone.

Dr. Pachynski’s work concentrates on developing new approaches to fighting prostate cancer by modulating the immune response. This four-year grant from the American Cancer Society will allow for the expansion of his lab and acceleration of his current research.

This grant is centered on a protein that he began investigating while at Stanford. The protein, chemerin, is a leukocyte chemo-attractant that helps direct immune cell movements around the body. Pachynski was the first to show that prostate and other cancers turn chemerin off and reduce their secretion of it compared to normal tissues.

They discovered in the lab that when they engineered the prostate cancer cells to start making chemerin again, they were able to not only move key immune cells into the tumor, but also favorably alter the gene expression profile within the tumor, which then significantly suppressed its growth. This grant is largely based on this work, as well as developing a tumor-targeted version of chemerin for which Dr. Pachynski has a current patent with the WashU Office of Technology Management.


“Our hope would be that we can use this approach for several other types of cancer such as breast cancer, melanoma and pancreatic cancer. It’s not cancer specific though, you just need to get the right immune cells into the tumor so they can attack the tumor. And we’ve already shown that modulating the chemerin expression in the tumor can suppress melanoma and breast cancer in mouse models. We wrote this patent so that it’s not specific for prostate cancer, and so we hope we can use it for many different tumor types.”

Russell Pachynski, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Oncology

Dr. Pachynski says this award from the ACS will go a long way to help expand his lab to accelerate the pace of research to further this study. This grant support allows for hiring additional lab personnel and purchase of supplies, which will advance the development of his chemerin-based therapeutic. Ultimately, Dr. Pachynski would like to bring this into the clinic to treat prostate cancer patients here at WashU/Siteman Cancer Center. “We’re still relatively early in the development, but our preclinical data suggests a tumor-targeted chemerin could be effective no only as a single drug, but also work together with existing immunotherapies to improve their ability to shrink tumors. “  

ACS seeks to improve the lives of cancer patients, families, and caregivers through research, patient services, and advocacy. To maximize impact, ACS has established six priority research areas to advance our mission: etiology or causes of cancer, obesity/healthy eating and active living, diagnosis and screening, treatment, survivorship, and health equity across the continuum. These topics will require fundamental, preclinical, clinical, and implementation research as well as multidisciplinary research teams to tackle the complexities of cancers and cancer care.

“Our research goal is to find answers that help save lives from cancer and that means to fund the most innovative cancer research,” said Dr. William Dahut, chief scientific officer at the American Cancer Society. “This new group of grantees represents the very best to help break new ground in cancer care and treatment.”