California Researchers

Each year, the American Lung Association in California provides significant funding to support groundbreaking research right here in our state. This money supports basic and clinical research through training and "seed" grants for beginning researchers. These grants play a critical role in attracting and retaining talented scientists who are focused on lung research.

Many of our young scientists become award-winning researchers in the field of lung disease. The American Lung Association also funds the Airways Clinical Research Centers (ACRC) in San Diego, part of the nation's largest network of clinical research centers dedicated to lung disease treatment research. The ACRC conducts important clinical trials to improve lung disease management and treatment.

Please take a moment to learn more about our talented researchers below.


chen-hua-chuangChen-Hua Chuang, PhD
Stanford University, Stanford

Senior Research Training Fellowship
Molecular Biography of Lung Cancer Metastasis

It is unclear as to how lung cancer cells gain the ability to invade into surrounding tissue, spread to distant organs, and successfully form metastases. Dr. Chuang’s research will characterize the gene expression changes that drive lung cancer invasion and metastasis by assigning a unique barcode ID to every tumor cell to allow the easy connection of the primary lung cancer to the metastases it produced.


Peter KaiserPeter Kaiser, PhD
University of California, Irvine

American Lung Association, Free to Breathe, and Uniting Against Lung Cancer Impact Award
Drugs to Reactivate Tumor-Killing Ability of p53

One of the most commonly mutated genes in cancer and one of the most difficult proteins to target therapeutically is p53. The malfunction of p53 is crucial for the origin and spread of lung cancer. Dr. Kaiser and team aims to develop new cancer drugs targeting p53 to help patients suffering from this terrible disease. Drugs able to reactivate the tumor-killing ability of p53 will be a significant new treatment option for thousands of lung cancer patients, and also will improve treatment options for patients fighting other types of cancers.


Nancy McNamaraNancy McNamara, OD, PhD
University of California, San Francisco

Lung Cancer Discovery Award
Inhibiting a Protein Might Help Prevent or Treat Lung Cancer

As cigarette smoke is responsible for 87 percent of lung cancer deaths, there is an urgent need to develop novel strategies to treat lung cancer in smokers. Dr. McNamara and team have previously shown that cigarette smoke initiates tumor formation by disrupting the junctions between airway cells. An important component of the cell membrane that participates in smoke-induced tumor development is a protein called mucin 1 (MUC1). They are studying two methods to inhibit the tumor-promoting potential of MUC1, and will explore the potential of these therapies to prevent and/or treat lung cancer in smokers using an engineered mouse model of lung cancer.


David ShackelfordDavid Shackelford, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles

Lung Cancer Discovery Award
Compound May Kill Tumors With LKB1 Gene Mutation

Dr. Shackelford and team hope to identify new, personalized therapies for treating non-small cell lung cancer patients whose tumors have a mutation in the LKB1 gene, which regulates growth, metabolism and energy balance in the cell. Lung tumor cells with mutations in LKB1 cannot properly regulate their energy balance. The result is severe cellular stress that can selectively kill these tumors. Initial tests of a compound called piperlongumine, which generates high cellular stress in tumor cells, showed it was able to selectively kill the most aggressive tumors with LKB1 mutations. They will study piperlongumine as a potential therapy for treating advanced lung cancer.


monte-winslowMonte Winslow, PhD
Stanford University, Stanford

Biomedical Research Grant
Factors in the Spread of Lung Cancer

Metastases of lung cancer is a major barrier to successful therapy and survival. Using a genetically-engineered mouse model, in which tumors are initiated by genetic mutations similar to those that occur in the human disease, Dr. Winslow and team will attempt to determine whether disseminated tumors cells are present in the pleural fluid and blood of mice with very high numbers of early lung cancer lesions. This will allow the researchers to further understand the factors which limit or promote metastasis of lung cancer.


Florent CarretteFlorent Carrette, PhD
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, La Jolla

Senior Research Training Fellowship
Investigating How Immune Cells Respond to Influenza Virus

A subset of cells in the immune system, called CD8 T lymphocytes, are essential for killing cells infected with the flu virus. Yet, understanding how these cells respond to the influenza virus and protect individuals from repeat infections are limited. In this project, Dr. Carrette and team will investigate the mechanisms involved in controlling the generation of memory CD8 T lymphocyte pool during an influenza infection, with the ultimate goal to discover new targets to improve vaccine strategies.


vinicio-dejesus-perezVinicio De Jesus Perez, MD
Stanford University, Stanford

Biomedical Research Grant
How Blood Vessel Cells Promote Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

Not much is known regarding the origin of Idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH), a devastating disorder associated with the progressive increase in pulmonary pressure resulting from loss and impaired re-generation of small blood vessels. It has been postulated that failure of pericytes, a highly specialized blood vessel cell which helps to promote small vessel maturation and survival, leads to vascular dysfunction. Dr. De Jesus Perez and team will attempt to determine the role these blood vessel cells have in the origin of IPAH.


taylor-dohertyTaylor Doherty, MD
University of California, San Diego

Biomedical Research Grant
Seeking Better Understanding of Allergic Asthma

Many people with asthma have worsening airways inflammation after exposure to their allergy triggers. We have previously found that a white blood cell type in the lung, called type 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2), is critical to causing inflammation in the lung after exposure to the fungal allergen Alternaria. Dr. Doherty and team have since identified that ILC2 function can be controlled by asthma-associated molecules called leukotrienes. They will be testing how leukotrienes control the function of ILC2 in animal models of asthma and identify novel ILC2 leukotriene receptor pathways. Their research could lead to the discovery of therapeutic targets for allergic asthma.


Smoking Asthmatics Pilot Study (SAPS)
Co-Funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

About 20% of all people with asthma smoke. Smokers are consistently excluded from therapeutic trials for asthma. As a result, current asthma treatment guidelines may not be appropriate for smokers. Indeed, there is good evidence that inhaled corticosteroids, the mainstay for treating persistent asthma, are less effective in smokers. The SAPS trial is designed to test the feasibility of a large scale clinical trial looking at the four main therapeutic options for asthmatic patients who still smoke and are not well controlled on standard asthma therapy. Smoking cessation remains the primary strategy for treating these patients, but this study represents an important step in improving care for that significant population of individuals with asthma for whom smoking cessation remains a struggle.

"The treatment of asthma in patients who are smokers is an understudied area," said Joe Ramsdell, MD, (University of California, San Diego), SAPS Lead PI. "It is hoped that our study will lead to improved asthma care for smokers."

Learn more about the American Lung Association Research Program here.