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Two St. Louis Researchers Join American Lung Association Research Team

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

(November 20, 2019) - ST. LOUIS

For more information please contact:

Jill Thompson
[email protected]
312-940-7001

Today, the American Lung Association announced its new research team, which includes Hrishikesh Kulkarni, M.D., and Nicole White, Ph.D., both from Washington University in St. Louis. This year, the organization has also 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 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness Month. 

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 cancer and 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. Researchers in St. Louis received the following awards:

Biomedical Research Grant

Dr. Kulkarni was awarded a grant for his project, titled “Maintaining Airway Epithelial Cell Survival and Host Defense in Severe Pneumonia.”

Pneumonia is a main cause of death in the U.S., even with antibiotics. Six of every 100 hospital admissions are for pneumonia. Severe pneumonia causes acute respiratory distress syndrome. Dr. Kulkarni is investigating how the complement system, an important component of the host immune response, modulates survival of epithelial cells lining the airways in the context of bacterial pneumonia.

Biomedical Research Grant

Dr. White was awarded a grant for her project, titled “Insight Into How Lung Tumors Grow.”

Dr. White is studying genes involved in the promotion or suppression of the spread of lung cancer (metastasis). Previously they applied a cutting-edge sequencing technology to hundreds of lung cancer patients to discover a novel class of genes called long noncoding RNAs (lncRNA). They identified a lncRNA called LCAL62 that is associated with poor overall patient survival. This gene is also associated with a gene known to suppress lung cancer metastasis called FOXA2. They believe LCAL62 interacts with a protein to regulate FOXA2 and thus protect the cell from becoming cancerous. Dr. White will test if LCAL62 expression can alter cancer metastasis in mice. Second, they will explore how LCAL62 interacts with a protein partner to regulate FOXA2 and protect the cell from cancer. Overall, this study will advance our understanding of how tumors metastasize.

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

For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health and the Lung Association Research Team, contact Jill Thompson at mailto:[email protected] or 312-940-7001. 

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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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