Lynn Matrisian
Dr. Lynn Matrisian
(Photo provided)

After losing a dear friend to cancer shortly after college, Dr. Lynn Matrisian made the decision to dedicate her life to the fight against cancer. Her personal experience and scientific aptitude fueled her desire to understand cancer development and metastasis. Throughout her successful career in molecular biology and cancer research, she never lost sight of her primary interest – the patient. Ultimately, her passion for patient-driven advocacy led to her current position as Chief Science Officer (CSO) of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), which successfully advocated for the establishment of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs’ (CDMRP) Pancreatic Cancer Research Program (PCARP) in Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20).

Dr. Matrisian initially used skin and colon cancer models to study how cancer develops and spreads. It was around this time that she heard of the CDMRP, as it emerged as a new cancer research funding program in 1992. She was impressed by breast cancer survivors advocating for the federal funding that successfully established the CDMRP and the Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP). Witnessing this successful grassroots effort reaffirmed her commitment to patient-focused cancer research. She received BCRP funding in FY93 to expand her research into breast cancer and went on to participate in the program from FY98-FY03 as a Programmatic Panel member, serving variously as chair and member of the executive committee. Dr. Matrisian has also served as the founding chair of Vanderbilt University’s Department of Cancer Biology, Special Assistant to the Director of the National Cancer Institute, President of the American Association for Cancer Research, and she successfully mentored more than 20 postdoctoral fellows.

From a research career brimming with accomplishments, Dr. Matrisian shifted her attention to the world of non-profit patient advocacy. She completed an M.B.A with a focus in non-profit strategies, to learn more about the business and operational strategies of non-profit organizations. She was then approached to be the CSO of PanCAN, an organization dedicated to comprehensively fight pancreatic cancer.

“It was exactly what I was looking for,” she said. “Ten years later, [it] still inspires and motivates me every single day,” adding that she considers it a privilege to develop meaningful, patient-focused programs, and to fund clinical and scientific research initiatives with the goal of improving pancreatic patient outcomes.

Spurred by the BCRP’s early efforts, PanCAN took up the mantle of advocating for the development of PCARP, the first federally funded, pancreatic cancer-specific program. Dr. Matrisian praises PanCAN’s advocates for their ultimate success. She explains that pancreatic cancer researchers are aware traditional cancer treatments are ineffective against pancreatic cancer. With that in mind, the PCARP stakeholders and inaugural Programmatic Panel developed the program to offer researchers funding opportunities to propose innovative ideas to improve diagnostics and treatments for patients now and in the future. Dr. Matrisian notes that PanCAN is honored to partner with PCARP and hopes together they can fulfill PanCAN’s vision of “[creating] a world in which all patients with pancreatic cancer will thrive.”

The views, opinions, and/or findings contained in this paper are those of the author(s) and should not be construed as an official Department of the Army position, policy or decision.

Last updated Friday, November 25, 2022