Supporting Research: President's Research Report
A Message from the President
At the American Lung Association, we've been saving lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease for more than 110 years. We believe more Americans can triumph over lung disease, and that starts with lung health research. Every year, with financial support from our donors, we're able to invest in a nationwide network of researchers who are making incredible discoveries in how we understand and treat lung cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis and other lung diseases.
In 2016-2017 we are funding 69 unique research projects in 50 institutions across the country through our Awards and Grants program, as well as continuing to support the Airways Clinical Research Network – the nation's largest not-for-profit network of clinical research centers dedicated to asthma and COPD treatment research. Through the Awards & Grants program, our primary focus is to fund researchers at important crossroads of their careers, so that we continue building and expanding a strong community of scientists dedicated to lung health for years to come.
Together, with your support, we are fighting lung disease so that millions of Americans can live longer, healthier lives.
We invite you to meet a few of the researchers your donations help support.
Harold P. Wimmer
National President and CEO
American Lung Association
Our Research Team Fighting Lung Disease
The American Lung Association Research Team is a nationwide network of researchers funded by the American Lung Association to find better treatments and cures for lung disease. In 2015-16, the American Lung Association is supporting 69 research projects, through our Awards and Grants program. Our funding, including the Airways Clinical Research Network, totals $6.49 million and will be used to advance our understanding of lung disease. And, as part of our LUNG FORCE initiative to fight lung cancer, the Lung Association will be doubling our investment in lung cancer research. Meet a few of our researchers fighting lung disease:
ALISON CAREY, MD
Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
Biomedical Research Grant
Death and disability from flu infection is a major cause of death for babies in neonatal intensive care, and Dr. Alison Carey is researching neonatal influenza to reduce the dangers lung infections pose to babies. With a Biomedical Research Grant from the American Lung Association, she is studying a neonatal flu model.
"The main focus of the grant is to learn how probiotics protect babies' lungs," said Dr. Carey, the Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Immunology at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Dr. Carey says.
Infants younger than six months are not eligible for flu vaccines, but Dr. Carey found that earlier exposure to the flu improve survival rate when treated with lactobacillus probiotics. These probiotics, like the ones found in yogurt or dietary supplements, could be given to babies through an inhaler or nebulizer, if the study is successful. The treatment could also lessen an infant's need for mechanical ventilation to support breathing and reduce lung damage. Read more about Dr. Carey's research.
JUSTIN OLDHAM, MD
University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA
More than 140,000 Americans live with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), which causes stiffening and scarring in the lungs and makes it harder to breathe. While there isn't a cure for IPF current treatments only alleviate symptoms, and unfortunately about half of IPF patients die within three to five years of diagnosis.
Dr. Justin Oldham, director of the Interstitial Lung Disease Program at the University of California, Davis, hopes to better understand IPF and open the door to imperative treatments. With a grant from the Lung Association, he is using cutting-edge genomic technology to identify specific genes and gene variants associated with IPF.
"Genomic work is expensive, and I'm incredibly grateful to the Lung Association for allowing me to pursue this research," Dr. Oldham said. "It has laid the foundation for me to write larger federal grants so I can continue with this work full-time." Read more about Dr. Oldham's research.
MARGHERITA PASCHINI, PHD
Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, MA
Senior Research Training Fellowship
Dr. Margherita Paschini, PhD, of Children's Hospital in Boston, is studying ways to help those with emphysema breathe easier.
Emphysema damages the walls of the alveoli, or air sacs in the lungs, and making it harder to breathe. With a Lung Association grant, Dr. Paschini is studying lung stem cells that have the ability to repair damaged lung tissue. In a previous study, she learned that signals sent by neighboring cells direct these stem cells to form new alveoli. By analyzing the signals, she hopes to better understand how these stem cells sense lung damage and act on repairing an injured group of cells.
"Current treatment doesn't repair the alveoli, although it can slow the process of lung damage," Dr. Paschini says. "We want to actually reverse the damage, and form new functional tissue that will allow people to breathe more and for a longer period of time." Read more about Dr. Paschini's research.
Research Team Success Story
JEFFREY KERN, MD
Lung Cancer Center at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado
A Member of the American Lung Cancer Research Team since 1985
Dr. Jeffrey Kern, director of the Lung Cancer Center at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado, received funding from the American Lung Association in 1985 and identified an enzyme that causes unchecked cell growth and lung cancer. That project was the beginning of a lifetime career in lung cancer research for Dr. Kern.
"At that time, lung cancer wasn't something that many pulmonologists were interested in," Dr. Kern said. "This is an exciting time to be a lung cancer researcher. We have a much greater understanding of the genetic changes that drive lung cancer, and that has led to an amazing change in the way we understand and treat this disease."
In 2016, the American Lung Association awarded the first ever LUNG FORCE Research Innovation Project: Lung Cancer in Women Award to Dr. Sharad Goyal , a radiation oncologist and Associate Professor at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
With the award funded by the Lung Association's LUNG FORCE initiative, Dr. Goyal will examine if there is a greater risk in women compared to men to develop lung cancer due to radiation exposure from interventional cardiovascular procedures. Nearly 83 million adults in the U.S. have cardiovascular disease and undergo treatments that require X-rays that expose them to large amounts of radiation.
Research suggests that lung cancer patterns differ between women and men, and while the rates of lung cancer in men have fallen the number has doubled among women in the last 38 years. Dr. Goyal is hopeful that his research will lead to a reduced rate in lung cancer of women within the next 10 years.
"Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both women and men, and it is imperative that research into this area is adequately funded so that scientific discoveries are quickly translated into clinical practice that saves lives," Dr. Goyal said. "I'm so thankful that the American Lung Association has taken the proactive measures to fund this type of research and made research a cornerstone of their mission."
Donors to the American Lung Association give to our organization for many reasons, but for Bea Klier it's both professional and personal.
Bea, 98, is a scientist who worked at the New York Academy of Sciences for two decades and knows firsthand how imperative research is in learning and moving forward. She also felt the devastation of lung cancer when her only daughter, Karen Kidder, died of the disease at the age of 65.
She donated $25,000 American Lung Association because the five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 17.7 percent and more than half of lung cancer patients die within a year of being diagnosed. Bea is also a Legacy Society member because she wants to give other families affected by lung cancer greater hope.
"There aren't as many 'faces' of lung cancer because the survival rate is so low," Bea said. "I want to hear more stories of survival and I know that our best hope of achieving this is through funding more research."
We Need Your Support
Our mission to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease is sustained by the important lung disease research projects we fund each year. This research, made possible through your enduring and generous support, is the key to our lifesaving mission.
Scientific research is the front-line weapon in eliminating the terrible toll of lung disease on our families and loved ones. Through research, we strive to find better methods of detection, treatment and ultimately cures to a host of lung diseases, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.