Virginia Researcher Awarded $100,000 American Lung Association Grant to Study Lung Cancer Progression and Drug Resistance

 Lung health research is more important than ever. Never have we faced so many challenges to our lung health, including COVID-19, vaping and smoke from increased wildfires. Today, the American Lung Association in Virginia announced that Mario Acunzo, Ph.D. originally from Naples, Italy, and now a U.S. resident in Richmond, VA, and faculty at the Virginia Commonwealth University, was awarded a $100,000 Lung Cancer Discovery Award.

Acunzo’s project aims to help detect and study the consequences of RNA chemical modifications in lung cancer to identify new molecular targets and possibly new future lung cancer treatment therapies. 

“Here in Pennsylvania, we face lung health challenges everyday such as air quality, radon levels, climate change and will have an estimated 5,900 new lung cancer diagnoses and 3,470 lung cancer deaths in 2020 alone, said Deborah Brown, Chief Mission Officer at the Lung Association. “We are excited for Mario Acunzo to join the American Lung Association Research Team to help improve lung health here in Virginia and across the nation.” 

“Fifteen years ago, I traveled overseas to start my career as a scientist and focus on my goals. My research aims to find the missing pieces of the Lung Cancer drug resistance puzzle,” said Dr. Acunzo.

In the 2022-2023 grants cycle, the Lung Association is funding $13.2 million for more than 130 lung health research grants. For this round of funding, the organization placed a greater focus on strategic partnerships with key organizations like American Thoracic Society and CHEST, and grants that focus on equity like the Harold Amos Scholar.

Research projects funded by the Lung Association are carefully selected through rigorous scientific review and awardees represent the investigation of a wide range of complex issues. Awards were given in eight different categories; 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, Lung Cancer Discovery Award, and Public Policy Research Award. 

The Lung Association’s Nationwide Research Program includes the Awards and Grants Program, and also our Airways Clinical Research Network, the nation's largest not-for-profit network of clinical research centers dedicated to asthma and COPD treatment research.

For more information about the new grant awardees and the entire American Lung Association Research Team, visit
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