Clinical partnership for cancer research


Carly Kwiecinski, Cancer Center at Illinois Communications Intern

Research is where transformations in cancer treatment begin. Members of the Cancer Center at Illinois are at the forefront of development and discovery to ensure a better future in cancer treatment, detection and techniques. As a science research institution, the CCIL’s goal is to transform the entire field of oncology for the benefit of all patients.  

Cancer researchers do not also work directly with patients but knowing that their research could positively impact someone’s life is a huge motivation factor. The bioengineering professor and CCIL’s associate director for shared resources, Joseph Irudayaraj, has the unique opportunity to work with clinicians at Carle Foundation Hospital while he conducts research on diseases and cancer, including pancreatic cancer. 

“Several Carle clinicians are very interested in our research, which is nice to know because they are in direct contact with the patients. Clinicians can identify areas of cancer that they think need more efficient diagnoses and treatments, and such unmet needs provide motivation for scientists to work harder and make things possible,” said Irudayaraj.

Irudayaraj’s lab is among the few who have taken on the understudied field of pancreatic cancer research. In collaboration with Carle physician Kevin Lowe, Irudayaraj is trying to find a link between patients’ responses to therapy in relation to epigenome and microbiome. Through his research, his lab is tackling one of the major issues with pancreatic cancer – the lack of early diagnostics and standardized therapies. 

“We are asking ourselves, ‘What are the key trigger points, and how early can we detect these?’ If we can identify a set of biomarkers, we can hopefully come up with better treatment regimes. The ongoing partnership between the Cancer Center at Illinois and the Carle Foundation Hospital to identify the epigenetic and microbiome trigger points is an opportunity to address this gap in research,” Irudayaraj said.

The Cancer Center at Illinois has a unique opportunity to directly impact the quality of life by working closely with the Carle clinicians through enhanced research with patient perspectives.

“It isn’t just about the science, it’s about the lives that can be saved by the science”, said Irudayaraj. 


This article is part of a series on pancreatic cancer written by CCIL’s Communication Intern Carly Kwiecinski. Learn more about current outcomes for the disease and her personal insight into her family’s experience with the disease here