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Ongoing Projects

Database Research Projects

SOAR researchers use national health services and administrative databases as well as prospective institutional tissue-linked databases to investigate factors contributing to disease outcomes for pancreatic cancer, hepatobiliary disease, vascular disease, colorectal disease, and neurosurgical disease.  Databases used for these projects include: Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS/HCUP), UMass/Memorial Cancer Databases, Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Database, and SEER-Medicare Linked Databases - Pancreas and Liver.

Decision Analysis/Comparative Effectiveness

Decision analysis and comparative effectiveness modeling play an important role in our cutting-edge research  We use advanced software (Treeage Pro, Williamstown, MA) to perform these complex calculations.  The aim of decision analysis is to "quantify the unquantifiable" by utilizing statistical methods.  When comparing surgical options for specific diseases, it is often impossible to do so with traditional research techniques (e.g., randomized control trials) due to the complexities introduced by patient and surgeon preference (e.g., neoadjuvant versus up-front surgical approaches to pancreatic and other malignancies).  In addition, the temporal nature of disease (e.g., cancer relapse, vascular graft failure) cannot be captured with traditional statistical methods. Decision analysis attempts to place a value on each decision made by the patient and physician.  There may be hundreds of such decisions, many of which branch from others; by placing thousands of simulated patients into a tree-like model, we attempt to determine the optimal method of treating actual patients.  Our goal is to find the treatment modality that best optimizes the patient's survival and quality of life.

UMass Pancreas Program

The UMass Pancreas Program seeks to improve pancreatic cancer treatment by cultivating a spirit of intellectual cross-fertilization between researchers and clinicians. This integration of groundbreaking basic science and patient-oriented research is the key to successfully bringing “the bench to the bedside” and finding effective treatments.  We are also improving access to innovative clinical trials and cutting-edge therapies.  Our multidisciplinary, comprehensive approach provides patients, investigators, and our community with the best in both research knowledge and clinical care.

Biomarker Discovery for Pancreatic Cancer

Principal Investigator: Jennifer F. Tseng, MD, MPH

Purpose of Research

There are no dependable screening tests for pancreatic cancer nor are there tests to help determine which patients will respond to standard treatment. To combat this problem, UMass researchers have begun to recruit patients with pancreatic cancer and other pancreaticobiliary diseases for a novel, IRB-approved proteomic project. Through this research, we hope to discover:
          • biomarkers for pancreatic cancer that can make earlier diagnosis a reality
          • reliable ways to predict patient response to treatment 
Through a collaboration with Victor Ambros, PhD, of Molecular Medicine, we are also examining microRNAs in pancreatic cancer patients and normal controls as an additional method of pancreatic biomarker discovery.

How to Participate

Patients with pancreatic cancer and other pancreaticobiliary diseases who agree to sign a consent form can have blood, fluid and tissue samples from their surgery banked. If a patient wishes to bank only blood, a few tubes of blood (approximately 4 tablespoons) can be donated. Samples will be processed and stored for proteomic analysis.

Who to Contact

To participate or to learn more about this research please contact us at (508) 856-8663 or email

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