Project Purple Awards $250,000 in Grants to Duke University Researchers for Studies Advancing Early Detection and Treatment Protocols in Pancreatic Cancer

SEYMOUR, Conn., May 15, 2024 – Project Purple, a nonprofit dedicated to a world without pancreatic cancer, announced today that it has awarded $250,000 to researchers at Duke University School of Medicine for two pancreatic cancer research studies. Both studies will investigate intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs), precancerous pancreatic cysts that represent the only precursor to pancreatic cancer detectable on radiological scans, to help identify patients who would most benefit from surgical resection.

“Learning more about IPMNs is critical to understanding disease progression and identifying opportunities for preemptive action,” said Dino Verrelli, founder and CEO of Project Purple. “We’re pleased to fund these two research projects at Duke to advance the quest for early detection of pancreatic adenocarcinoma and curative treatments.”

These grant awards represent a portion of the $632,000 in grants announced in November 2022.

Peter Allen, M.D. chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology

Pantelidis Family Research Grant Totaling $150,000

Project Purple’s Pantelidis Family Research Grant has been awarded to Peter Allen, M.D., chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology in the Department of Surgery at Duke University School of Medicine, for his “Spatial Profiling for Determination of Sub-type and Malignant Risk in Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasms” study. Allen will receive a total of $150,000 over two years.

This project builds on Allen’s current prospective randomized chemoprevention trial in IPMN patients using an anti-inflammatory strategy. Recently developed spatial transcriptomic technology will allow Allen to determine the patients with pancreaticobiliary IPMNs, which are associated with inflammatory conditions leading to a heightened risk of disease progression. Patients with this IPMN sub-type could experience curative treatment through resection prior to the development of invasive disease.

James Pantelidis with members of his loving family.

The Pantelidis Family Research Grant is made possible by a fund established by the late James Pantelidis to help pancreatic cancer patients through research efforts. This fund was established to honor James Pantelidis and his family’s generous contributions to Project Purple’s mission. James sadly passed away from pancreatic cancer on April 18, 2023.

“Jim was special. We cannot thank the Pantelidis family enough for all that they do,” said Verrelli. “He lived with such passion and kindness. He instilled that in his family as well as those around him. This family has given so much of themselves to the Project Purple community and helped make it what it is today. Despite his passing, Jim’s impact will always be felt by all of us here at Project Purple. We are proud to be able to honor him with this grant that we are sure will save lives.”

Verrelli went on to mention that this felt like a “full-circle moment” as Dr. Allen was an important part of James Pantelidis’s care team. In addition to his role as a researcher, Dr. Allen is a practicing surgical oncologist.

“Dr. Allen played a pivotal role in Jimmy’s cancer and care journey,” said Stella Pantelidis, James’s wife. “We will be forever grateful.”

Elishama Kanu, M.D., awarded a Project Purple Innovations Grant for $100,000 for Genomic Profiling of IPMNs

Innovations Grant of $100,000 for Genomic Profiling of IPMNs

Elishama Kanu, M.D., general surgery resident in the Duke University School of Medicine Pancreatic Cancer Research Laboratory has been awarded a Project Purple Innovations Grant for $100,000 to advance genomic profiling of IPMNs and correlate the information with clinical patient samples for the detection of biomarkers signaling high risk for malignant degeneration.

According to the grant proposal, the project “aims to launch the discovery of prospective therapeutic targets for malignant IPMN. By linking the increased expression of biomarker genes to tumor growth, this work may inspire future research focused on targeting inhibition of these genes as a potential mechanism to suppress or even reverse tumor development and significantly impact patient management and outcomes.”


Founded in 2010, Project Purple is dedicated to a world without pancreatic cancer and improving the care and outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients. It has funded nearly $3 million in research, largely around early detection initiatives such as PRECEDE, the world’s largest high-risk consortium for genetic mutations linked to pancreatic cancer. It helped underwrite  Nebraska’s first high-risk clinic for pancreatic cancer and other cutting-edge research initiatives led by leading authorities in the field. Additionally, the nonprofit has provided more than $1 million in financial aid to help patients cover medical bills, utilities and housing costs while undergoing treatment.  For more information, visit our About Us page or contact us.

Make an impact today! Click here to donate to Project Purple’s mission of a world without pancreatic cancer. Your donation funds critical research and improves patients’ lives through patient aid programs.

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