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Boston Grows as a Hub for Lung Disease Research, with 7 Boston-Based Researchers Joining American Lung Association Research Team for 2019-2020

Lung Association expands research investment to $8.7 million, making headway on its commitment to double its investment in research

(November 25, 2019) - Boston, MA

For more information please contact:

Jennifer Solomon
[email protected]
(516) 680-8927

With a vision of a world free of lung disease, the American Lung Association funds a wide range of research to improve lung health, including lung cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) pulmonary fibrosis and more. Today the organization announced its new research team, including 7 Boston-area researchers, representing 6 Boston-based institutions who are now receiving funding.  Awardees are Andrew Synn with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Avrum Spira with Boston University-Boston Medical Center, Shiladitya Sengupta and Jinjun Shi with Brigham and Women's Hospital, Inc., Carla Kim with Children's Hospital Boston, Laura Petrillo with Massachusetts General Hospital, and Summer Hawkins with Trustees of Boston College, each receiving an award for between $50,000 and $300,000. 

The Lung Association has increased its research investment to $8.7 million, through awards for both our Airways Clinical Research Center (ACRC) Network and its innovative Awards & Grants program. This announcement comes at an important time, as November is both Lung Cancer Awareness Month and COPD Awareness Month. 

“Earlier this month we released our State of Lung Cancer Report which showed that Massachusetts is leading the way when it comes to early stage diagnosis and performing surgery as a first course of treatment.  Now, we can also say that Massachusetts is a center of lung cancer and lung disease research, having received one of the largest numbers of awards for any metro area!” said Amber Pelletier Division Director for Health Promotions for the American Lung Association in Massachusetts. “We’ve always been proud of our local medical professionals and institutions – and this is just  further evidence that Massachusetts is on the front lines of preventing and treating lung disease.” 

The Awards and Grants Program provides investigators with the funds, at all levels of their career, to conduct novel and promising research to prevent, treat and even cure lung disease. The ACRC is the nation's largest not-for-profit network of clinical research centers dedicated to asthma and COPD treatment research that promises to have a direct, positive impact on patient care. 

Research projects funded by the Lung Association are carefully selected through rigorous scientific review and represent the investigation of a wide range of complex issues to help combat and reduce the suffering and burden of lung disease. The Massachusetts awards include 3 Lung Cancer Discovery Awards.

Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of both women and men in the U.S. During November’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month, the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative is dedicated to increasing awareness about the risk of this deadly disease and uniting Americans to raise funds for critical lung cancer research. The Lung Association is funding many research grants dedicated to lung cancer research, including:

  • 2 Lung Cancer Discovery Awards to researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Inc.. Shiladitya Sengupta, Ph.D. is exploring the next generation of multifunctional nanotherapy to target lung cancer cells, Jinjun Shi, Ph.D is studying treatments that suppress tumors with hopes to pave a path to new combination therapies for better treatment of lung cancers
  • A Lung Cancer Discovery Award went to Carla Kim, Ph.D. at Children’s Hospital Boston to explore lung cancer stem cells to provide a better understanding of lung cancer.  

Other awards distributed in the Boston area are:

  • A Clinical Patient Care Research Grant was awarded to Laura Petrillo, M.D. at Massachusetts General Hospital  to help patients with lung cancer mutations understand treatment and prepare for their future
  • A Catalyst Award was given to Andrew Synn, M.D. at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to evaluate the use of chest imaging to detect abnormalities in the pulmonary vessels and determine whether those abnormalities are associated with worse heart and lung function and whether or not they reflect disease-related changes at the microscopic level in patients who had lung biopsies. The outcomes will help determine whether this new chest imaging method can be used to help detect pulmonary vascular disease in patients who are at-risk without the need for an invasive procedure.
  • A Public Policy Award went to researcher Summer Hawkins, Ph.D., at Trustees of Boston College to evaluate the impact of local tobacco-control policies--including smoke-free legislation, e-cigarette legislation and age restriction policies--on birth weight and preterm birth. Hawkins will also evaluate in the impact of air quality policies on birth outcomes, including state-level incentives for electric/hybrid cars, renewable energy and vehicle idling policies as well as county-level coal and oil power plant closures, pollution abatement and fracking sites. The results will help inform policy decisions by showing the downstream effects of policies on the health of the most vulnerable mothers and infants.
  • A Stand Up To Cancer- Interception Dream Team award that includes to Dr. Avrum Spira, M.D. at Boston University – Boston Medical Center. The multidisciplinary Lung Cancer Interception Dream Team will molecularly map pre-cancer of the lung and identify which pre-cancerous lung tissues require aggressive treatment and which treatments work to block the development of invasive cancer. The team will use state of the art technologies to create diagnostic tools, such as nasal swabs, blood tests, and radiological imaging, to confirm whether lung abnormalities found on chest imaging are benign lung disease or lung cancer, thus enabling treatment at the very earliest stages of cancer or recurrence. The implications of this research could be a game changer in how lung cancer is screened, diagnosed, treated, and most important, determining if it can be prevented.

See project overviews of all funded projects at Lung.org/research-team. 

Pelletier continued, “The research happening in Boston encompasses everything from patient care and understanding to new treatments to advocacy. We are so grateful to have this talented group of researches doing this important work that will get us one step closer to a world free of lung disease.”

For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health and the American Lung Association Research Team, contact Jennifer Solomon at [email protected] or 516-680-8927 

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About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.

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