Asfar Azmi, Ph.D. receives 2021 Kales Award for breakthrough in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma treatment

Asfar Azmi, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Oncology at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine, has been selected as the winner of the 2021 Anthony and Joyce Danielski Kales Endowed Faculty Award for Innovative Cancer Researcher for his research on Selinexor with Gemcitabine and Nab-Paclitaxel for the treatment of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

Dr. Azmi’s research, “Preclinical Assessment with Clinical Validation of Selinexor with Gemcitabine and Nab-Paclitaxel for the Treatment of Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma,” was published in Clinical Cancer Research. Read the article here.

Co-authors on this research include Husain Yar Khan, Irfana Muqbil, Amro Boukameel, Jasper E. Neggers, Dirk Daelemans, Amit Mahipal, Gregory Dyson, Mandana Kamgar, Mohammad Najeeb Al-Hallak, Anteneh Tesfaye, Steve Kim, Vinod Shidham, Ramzi M. Mohammad and Philip A. Philip.

“I am really humbled to be honored with this wonderful award,” said Dr. Azmi. “Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a deadly disease in urgent need of newer treatments, and I am proud to contribute research to this field.”

Dr. Azmi’s research demonstrates that the nuclear exporter protein exportin 1 (XPO1) is critical in enabling PDAC tumors to grow and persist. Targeting XPO1 using drugs such as selinexor has shown antitumor activity in stem cell-derived models, and multiple patient-derived models when combined with standard-of-care treatment or used alone. In a phase I clinical study, Dr. Azmi and his team observed remarkable response in a patient with metastatic PDAC tripling the survival on a regimen of selinexor–gemcitabine–nab-paclitaxel. His team’s studies bring forward a new and clinically effective therapy for PDAC.

“Our research team has shown that overexpression of XPO1 contributes to therapy resistance and poor survival in solid tumors. Therefore, XPO1 inhibition and subsequent realignment of TSPs to the nucleus is an attractive anticancer strategy,” Dr. Azmi explained.

Dr. Azmi will be honored for his research at a virtual Grand Rounds ceremony on November 18. He will speak about his research, specifically on nuclear protein transport biology and the publication for which he is being recognized.

The Kales Award was created in 2012 at the WSU School of Medicine to recognize exemplary and innovative cancer research. It is supported by the Drs. Anthony and Joyce Danielski Kales Endowed Faculty Award for Innovative Cancer Research Endowment. Selection is based on a comprehensive review of published articles within the previous year.