Two New Interception Research Awards Funded to Seek Ways to Detect Early and Intercept Development of Lung Cancer Cells to Save Lives

American Lung Association with Stand Up To Cancer and LUNGevity Foundation Invests in opportunities to detect and treat cancer at earliest stages

The American Lung Association and its LUNG FORCE initiative has announced its single largest investment in lung cancer research to date in collaboration with Stand Up To Cancer and LUNGevity Foundation. The organizations are co-funding two new research awards designed to investigate early molecular or other changes that lead to cancer development, advancing efforts to detect lung cancer in its earliest forms and intercept the disease.

"Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths, and one reason why the disease is so deadly is because oftentimes it is caught too late," said American Lung Association National President and CEO Harold P. Wimmer. "More must be done to save lives, and early detection and interception of lung cancer cells before they truly 'take hold' could turn the tide against not only this disease, but potentially cancer as we know it."

The SU2C-LUNGevity Foundation-American Lung Associationawards include a Lung Cancer Interception Dream Team funded at $5 million and a Lung Cancer Interception Translational Research Team funded at $2 million. The teams cover a range of approaches to the very early detection and treatment of cancer, and will help inform successful future strategies and new approaches for early detection and prevention.

SU2C-LUNGevity Foundation-American Lung Association Lung Cancer Interception Dream Team: Intercept Lung Cancer Through Immune, Imaging, & Molecular Evaluation.

The Dream Team will develop 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. To protect against recurrence of disease that has already been successfully treated, new blood tests will help identify patients at the earliest stages of recurrence, enabling timely interventions such as immunotherapy.

  • Leader: Avrum Spira, M.D., professor of medicine, pathology and bioinformatics, and director of the Cancer Center at Boston University-Boston Medical Center.
  • Co-leader: Steven Dubinett, M.D., associate vice chancellor for research at UCLA and director of the lung cancer research program at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"We plan to develop technology that can, in a very sensitive way, pick up the small amount of DNA that might be present in the blood of someone who's harboring a lung cancer deep within their lung tissue – a non-invasive way of measuring a person's risk of having lung cancer," Dr. Spira said.

SU2C-LUNGevity Foundation-American Lung Association Lung Cancer Interception Translational Research Team: Blood-based Early Interception of Lung Cancer.

The Translational Research Team will develop Lung Cancer Interception Assay (LCIA) that can be used in conjunction with low-dose CT scans, based on blood-based assays that examine circulating tumor cells and circulating tumor DNA. After completing pilot testing as part of this Translational Research Grant, the team plans to move the LCIA forward to larger, prospective clinical trials.

  • Leader: Lecia Sequist, M.D., MPH, associate professor of medicine, and director of the Center for Innovation in Early Cancer Detection at Massachusetts General Hospital.
  • Co-leader: Maximilian Diehn, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of radiation oncology, Stanford University School of Medicine.

"It's extremely frustrating that we're not technically able to find lung cancer earlier in the majority of patients," Dr. Sequist said. "We need to change the paradigm that we use to identify patients so that they are found early enough to offer them curative treatment. If we really want to save more lives from lung cancer, we have to exponentially improve our diagnostics."

Since the launch of its LUNG FORCE initiative in 2014, the Lung Association has increased its investment in lung cancer research by 167 percent, while providing support for patients and families impacted by lung cancer.

"We're proud to support these teams who are working to change the face of cancer research and push the dream of ending cancer closer to reality," Wimmer said. "The potential to move the findings quickly to patients through methods of early detection and clinical trials is a powerful opportunity to support patients and save lives – critical to our mission work."

For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung cancer, LUNG FORCE and American Lung Association research investments, contact the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 312-801-7628.

For more information, contact:

Allison MacMunn
[email protected]

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