American Lung Association/LUNGevity Foundation Award Recipient Finds Major Oncogene Responsible for Lung Cancer Development and Potential Treatment

$100,000 grant supports research of existing rheumatoid arthritis drug in treating lung cancer

Washington, D.C. (November 30, 2009)

Alan P. Fields, Ph.D., a recent recipient of the American Lung Association/LUNGevity Foundation Lung Cancer Discovery Award, and his team at the Mayo Clinic Florida have found a major oncogene responsible for lung cancer development in mice and that a drug once used to treat rheumatoid arthritis shows promise in inhibiting the gene in some types of lung cancer.

The drug, called aurothiomalate (ATM), is a targeted therapy, meaning it doesn't kill both cancer and normal cells the way many chemotherapy drugs do. Rather, ATM targets a gene called protein kinase Ciota (PKCi) that is essential for the development of lung cancer.

"Blocking PKCi inhibits lung cancer cell growth, suggesting that a drug that targets PKCi might be an effective treatment against lung cancer," said Dr. Fields, Chair of the Department of Cancer Biology and Director of Cancer Basic Science at the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center in Jacksonville, Florida.

"With five-year survival rates for lung cancer at only 15 percent, the need for new treatments is critical," said Charles D. Connor American Lung Association President and CEO.  "We are committed to finding a cure for lung cancer, and are grateful for our collaboration with LUNGevity Foundation on this important effort."

Dr. Fields and his team found that PKCiota, an oncogene that is over-expressed in a majority of lung cancer, is necessary for lung cancer growth.  They also found that ATM was effective in producing an anti-tumor response in mice with lung cancer when given at levels similar to those given to people being treated for rheumatoid arthritis. These results suggest that lung cancer patients whose tumors have high PKCi levels are likely to respond to ATM therapy. Dr. Fields also found that ATM is effective when used together with other targeted drugs used to treat lung cancer, but not with traditional chemotherapy drugs.

"Lung cancer remains the leading cancer killer in this country, which makes it is so important that we work together to find the best treatments, diagnoses and cure," said Beth Ida Stern, LUNGevity Foundation Executive Director.  "We hope our partnership with American Lung Association will continue to reap such influential discoveries as that of Dr. Fields."

Building on the data that Dr. Fields gathered through his American Lung Association/LUNGevity Foundation Lung Cancer Discovery Award, he and his colleagues have conducted a Phase I clinical trial of ATM in lung cancer patients, to assess the safety and optimal dosing of the drug for lung cancer treatment. His results show that ATM is well-tolerated and he is planning to soon start a Phase II trial to look at the effectiveness of the drug in combination with another targeted agent as a treatment for lung cancer.

The American Lung Association and the LUNGevity Foundation came together in 2005 to jointly fund research supporting its mutual interest in finding a cure for lung cancer.  The American Lung Association and the LUNGevity Foundation contribute $50,000 each per award funded, and since its inception, have funded 12 research proposals in the amount of $1.2 million.

About the American Lung Association 
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is "Fighting for Air" through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit

About LUNGevity Foundation
LUNGevity Foundation was founded by seven Chicago-area lung cancer survivors to increase funding for lung cancer research. The mission of LUNGevity Foundation is to save lives and to ease the burden of lung cancer on patients and their loved ones.  LUNGevity funds the most promising and innovative medical research into diagnosis, treatment, and cure of lung cancer; through its unique grant-matching partnerships, every dollar the Foundation spends on research is doubled by organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association. LUNGevity also provides emotional support for lung cancer survivors and their loved ones by creating community through its online Lung Cancer Support Community. For more information about LUNGevity Foundation please visit