SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The UC San Diego School of Medicine received a $1 million grant from Stand Up to CancerĀ for research on combating pancreatic cancer, the country's third deadliest cancer.

A team of UCSD researchers will work with researchers from UC San Francisco to use the grant for preclinical models and to test drugs that could curb the growth and progression of pancreatic cancer cells in combination with chemotherapy. Stand Up to Cancer awarded the grant through its partnership with the Lustgarten Foundation, the Pancreatic Cancer Collective.

"In previous work, we identified a group of pancreatic cancer cells that were particularly aggressive and responsible for driving lethality and therapy resistance," said lead researcher and pharmacology professor Dr. Tannishtha Reya. "More recently, we have focused on identifying the key signaling networks that are necessary for the survival of these drug-resistant cells. This award is really critical because it allows us to test whether drugs against these pathways can serve as effective new agents to block pancreatic cancer growth."

Long-term, the researchers hope to complete clinical trials with the drugs. Surgery is the only current treatment for pancreatic cancer with the potential to cure patients of the disease. However, metastasized pancreatic cancer cells are common, so surgery is only recommended for roughly 20 percent of patients, according to UCSD. Pancreatic cancer --the country's third deadliest cancer type -- accounts for 3 percent of U.S. cancer cases.

"Pancreatic cancer outcomes remain the worst of all common cancers," Reya said. "Using what we have learned about what drives pancreatic cancer growth and drug resistance, we hope to offer new treatment options to people living with this disease."