Portland Researcher Awarded Lung Association Grant to Study T Cells in Lung Cancer

Today, the American Lung Association Research Institute announced it awarded $13.6 million in research grants to fund 129 innovative projects to advance today’s science to end lung disease tomorrow, including a project based in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Megan Burger from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) was awarded the Lung Cancer Discovery Award to study T cell function and better understand how these cells interact with lung cancer.

Lung research is critical because 566,000 people in Oregon are living with lung disease and each year, millions of people are impacted by respiratory viruses like COVID-19 and influenza. Through the Awards and Grants Program, the Lung Association supports trailblazing research, novel ideas and innovative approaches. The funded researchers investigate a wide range of lung health topics, including asthma, COPD, lung cancer, infectious lung diseases and more.

“We are honored to welcome Dr. Megan Burger to the elite American Lung Association Research Institute and our efforts to fundamentally transform lung health here in Oregon and across the nation,” said Julian Dillon, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Oregon. “Our research investment is key to unlocking solutions to alleviate the burden of lung disease. The Lung Association’s Awards and Grants Program promotes innovative research, collaboration, translation of discoveries and scientific exchange to transform today’s science into tomorrow’s solutions. Because when you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.”

Dr. Burger will lead the research team to understand the intricacies of T cells and utilize the promising approach to eliminating cancerous cells. The research process will focus on understanding why T cells are effective with certain types of cancer cells but not others in hopes of identifying new immunotherapy approaches to best utilize these cells.

“Cancer immunotherapies have been transformative in improving the treatment of lung cancer. With the generous support of the American Lung Association, we are investigating how to better engage killer T cells of the immune system to fight cancer with next generation immunotherapies,” said Dr. Burger. “Our work focuses on the design of therapeutic cancer vaccines that we hope will provide a more effective treatment option for lung cancer patients.”

This year, awards were given in different categories addressing many aspects of lung disease; ALA/AAAAI Allergic Respiratory Diseases Award, ALA/ATS/CHEST Foundation Respiratory Health Equity Research Award, Catalyst Award, COVID-19 Respiratory Virus Research Award, Dalsemer Award, Innovation Award and Lung Cancer Discovery Award. Research projects funded by the Lung Association are carefully selected through rigorous scientific peer review and awardees investigate a wide range of complex issues.

The Lung Association’s Research Institute includes the Awards and Grants program, and also the Airways Clinical Research Network, the nation's largest not-for-profit network of clinical research centers dedicated to asthma and COPD research. The Lung Association is currently accepting applications for its 2024-2025 research awards and grants cycle. For more information about the active research funding opportunities, visit Lung.org/awards.

For more information about the new grant awardees and the entire American Lung Association Research Team, visit Lung.org/research-team.

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