Dr. Ru Chen
Research Assistant Professor in the UW Division of Gastroenterology, is the recipient of the Donald E. Bocek Endowed
Research and Development Award in Pancreatic Cancer
. Established in 2008 in honor of Donald E. Bocek, who is described by his
family as an "exceptional man who lived an exceptional life” – this fund supports the work of junior investigators working in the
field of pancreatic cancer research in a variety of multidisciplinary fields, such as gastroenterology, surgery, radiation oncology,
bioengineering, medical oncology, and genome sciences.
After receiving her MS in molecular biology from the University of Michigan and her PhD in pathology from the University of Washington,
Dr. Chen has focused her expertise in the area of a complex and state-of-the-art science called proteomics. A combination of protein
and genome, the word proteomics refers to the study of all the proteins that make up a living organism. Not only does proteomics
identify and evaluate the function of the proteins expressed by an organism, but it also studies the way they interact, the changes
they undergo, and the effects that they have within the organism. This can be a daunting task -- the human proteome contains approximately
400,000 proteins. Unlike the study of genes, which remain more or less constant, proteins can occur in different locations within the
body at different stages in a person's life, and change from cell to cell.
Dr. Chen’s research focuses on identifying and studying the proteins that are specific to pancreatic cancer, which is a uniformly
lethal disease. Using conventional screening tests it cannot be diagnosed at an early, curable stage, and once the cancer forms,
chemotherapy offers minimal improvement in survival. Earlier diagnosis and better treatments are desperately needed to improve the
survival rate of pancreatic cancer patients.
By studying the proteins involved with pancreatic cancer, Dr. Chen's research is devoted to answering two clinically important questions:
(1) Can early detection methods be developed for pancreatic cancer? And (2) can more effective therapies be developed? Dr. Chen's
proteomic research could lead to powerful new insights into how pancreatic cancer forms. Understanding the structure and function
of each protein, and the complexities of the protein-to-protein interactions involved in pancreatic cancer, will be critical for
developing the most effective diagnostic techniques and disease treatments in the future, such as the development of a blood test
for early detection and the potential to identify new drug therapies for treatment.
“Our understanding of how cancer develops,” says Dr. Chen “is a fundamental key to the successful selection of biomarkers of
disease and the future advancement of chemotherapeutic targets.”
The UW Division of Gastroenterology is grateful for the generosity and support of the Bocek family. At the current time, with limited
federal research dollars, the funding from the Donald E. Bocek Endowed Research and Development Award in Pancreatic Cancer
particularly valuable and critical in supporting this important area of research. For more information about UW Medicine's work related
to pancreatic cancer, please contact Olena Nyzhnykevych, Director for Philanthropy at
or (206) 543-8427.