Lung Cancer Initiative and The V Foundation Continue Partnership
to Fund Lung Cancer Research 

The Lung Cancer Initiative, the state’s leading nonprofit organization supporting lung cancer research and education, announces its third annual partnership with The V Foundation for Cancer Research, one of the nation’s leading cancer research funding organizations. Together, they will fund research focused on lung cancer, specifically among the African-American population in North Carolina.

The V Foundation for Cancer Research has matched Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina’s $200,000 grant, totaling $400,000 devoted to researching this cause. Funding from The V Foundation comes from the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund, which honors the late celebrated ESPN sportscaster and University of North Carolina graduate Stuart Scott and assists some of the most vulnerable and disproportionately impacted communities battling cancer.

The focus of this research partnership is to fund new or existing lung cancer clinical trials in North Carolina or translational research proposals with specific aims that are moving toward initiating a near-term clinical trial. The projects also recognize and address the disparities in cancer incidence and death rates in African-Americans, as compared to all other ethnic groups. In the United States, lung cancer claims more lives than any other cancer and more than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined.

The 2018 grant recipients are Qingyi Wei, MD, Phd at Duke University and Edward Kim, MD at Duke University.

Since 2008, Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina has funded over $1.4 million towards lung cancer research.

Grant Winners

Qingyi Wei, MD, PhD at Duke University 

Lung cancer remains a major cause of cancer mortality worldwide, and in 2017, 155,870 people are expected to die from lung cancer in US. African Americans have the highest lung cancer incidence and lung cancer-related death rate and develop the disease at an earlier age compared to other racial groups. African Americans also have poorer survival, because of limited access to lung cancer screening, adequate healthcare, and appropriate therapeutic interventions. Etiology studies suggest that such a disparity in lung cancer may be due to genetic susceptibility, in addition to environmental exposures to cigarette smoking, radon, asbestos, and arsenic. Recently, we identified a novel gene, DCAF4, through a large-scale meta-analysis in Caucasian populations, which is likely to be involved in cell-cycle control and DNA damage response that is relevant to African Americans as well. Our hypotheses are that dysfunctional DCAF4 impacts cancer initiation and progression by altering multiple cellular processes and that DCAF4 functional variants alter gene expression and tumor cell phenotypes, which may explain racial disparity in lung cancer. Therefore, we proposed to study the functions of this gene and its risk-associated genetic variants on cellular phenotypes in lung cancer cells, animals and human clinical samples of lung cancer. We will test the hypotheses that dysfunctional DCAF4 impacts cancer initiation and progression by altering multiple cellular processes and that DCAF4 functional variants alter gene expression and tumor cell phenotypes. By including clinical samples from both Caucasians and African Americans, we hope to identify genetic markers for disparity in lung cancer.

Edward Kim, MD at Levine Cancer Insititute 

Lung cancer treatment has dramatically changed, particularly with the introduction of immunotherapies aimed at jump starting a patient's immune system to fight cancer. Along with the development of new treatments, biomarkers have become increasingly important to disease sub-typing and evaluation. EGFR, ALK, and ROS1 are genes that can be mutated in patients with non-small cell lung cancer and severe as biomarkers. An individual's tumor may have one or many mutations. The mutational landscape of the tumor has been shown to be an important determinant of response to immunotherapy. PD-L1 also serves as a biomarker, but there have been mixed results as to whether PD-L1 is appropriate for selecting immunotherapy treatment. Microsatellite instability (MS1) and mismatch repair (MMR) are new markers and may also predict response to therapy. Combinations of new and existing biomarkers may be better indicators of response to immunotherapies. Many factors may contribute to the complex makeup of a patient's immune response and each patient's response may differ. Factors that may influence response include the patient's own baseline immune landscape, age, gender, race or environment. 

Assessing biomarkers from patient's blood and tumor samples may guide immunotherapy selection and treatment duration to optimize overall patient benefit. This study will assess the predictive utility of our blood immune response test to select patients appropriate for immunotherapy, as well as manage treatment over time. Of importance, this study will assess samples across patient populations, including African Americans, longitudinally and will evaluate differences in immune landscapes and how biomarkers may determine treatment. 

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