Drug-Resistant Lung Cancer Research

Dr. Johnathan Whetstine, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Dr. Sweta Mishra, (formerly) a postdoctoral research fellow discuss their work at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center with drug-resistant lung cancer research and the American Lung Association Research Team.

Johnathan W.: Our lab has been really pursuing how DNA structure is being altered and how that in turn alters the drug-resistant states of cells. Our work is linked to drug-resistant lung cancer and that's the question we're asking and addressing. We received a Lung Cancer Discovery Award from the America Lung Association and that's how we've become affiliated with the ALA.

Sweta Mishra: One of the fundamental problems in the cancer field is that we don't understand really the fundamental mechanisms by which the tumor cells become drug resistant. So I think they are ... it has greatly helped me to attack the questions very early on that are very risky in nature and also to move my projects forward.

Johnathan W.: The big question that we're asking is how can we understand drug resistance. We know that your DNA content itself becomes changed in drug-resistant disease. We're very interested in understanding is that a process that's regulatable? Is it controllable? What our work has done is uncovered a new mechanism that is allowing cells to select a piece of DNA, which has genes in it that protect them. And so what's happening in lung cancer, breast cancer, other cancers as well is that this region is selected and when they're selected what happens is the cells gain those genes that will protect them.

The American Lung Association is allowing us to ask a very important question centered on lung, while allowing us to develop an understanding that will impact many cancers. Without support from foundations, without the American Lung Association, without that type of support, we can't do the science we do.

Page last updated: March 22, 2020

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