Lung Cancer Initiative Awards Two Innovation in Lung Cancer Research Grants

Raleigh, NC, December 4, 2019 – The Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina (LCI) has awarded The Vicky Amidon Innovation in Lung Cancer Research Award to Kenneth Adler, PhD, North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine and Hongwei Du, PhD, University of North Carolina School of Medicine and Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Each recipient will receive a $30,000 grant to support their innovative work to improve the lives of those at risk of our living with lung cancer in North Carolina.

Kenneth Adler, PhD, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Adler’s grant will support his project “CIP2A, SET, PP2A and MARCKS; A New Paradigm Related to Metastasis in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC).” Through his research, Dr. Adler has identified a new protein, MARCKS, that is overactive in lung cancer patients. His team is working to inhibit tumor growth and metastasis in patients with advanced lung cancer by dampening the over activity of MARCKS.

"With this grant, we will be looking at the actual molecular mechanisms that lead to MARCKS being over activated in human lung cancers cells," said Dr. Adler. "A full elucidation of the way these molecules work in lung cancer cells to allow over activity of MARCKS can lead to identifying new therapeutic targets for better treatment options for lung cancer patients."

“Although there have been many recent advances, the standard treatments are not effective for every lung cancer patient and new targeted treatments are needed,” said Jeff Petty, MD, Chair of the Lung Cancer Initiative Scientific Advisory Committee.  “Dr. Adler has identified a target that can be inhibited to treat cancer not only in animal models, but also in patients.  Novel drugs that block this target, MARCKS, improved the chances of response when added to standard treatment in patients.  In Dr. Adler’s proposal, he will work to develop a next generation of drugs targeting MARCKS that could prove to be even more active.”

Hongwei Du, PhD, UNC School of Medicine and Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

A common complication of lung cancer is brain metastasis, in which there is limited treatment. Using a patient’s modified immune cells, so-called CAR-T cells, to defeat cancer is promising in clinical research.  Dr. Hongwei Du’s project, "Targeting Brain Metastasis of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer by Enhancing CAR-T Cell Migration via CCR2” will focus on developing a new treatment with CAR-T cells against non-small cell lung cancer and explore new ways to better improve the treatment against the brain metastasis by helping CAR-T cells move into the brain tumor.

“The adoptive transfer of CAR-T cell is emerging as a potential curative approach for cancer patients,” said Dr. Du. “If the proposed strategies are successful, it can be a great impact for lung cancer treatment, which may represent a curable opportunity for lung cancer patients with metastatic lesions, especially for brain metastasis. With the Lung Cancer Initiative’s support, I will continue to develop novel immunotherapies for lung cancer, and our overall goal is to develop potential therapy, reducing mortality and morbidity in lung cancer patients”.

“Very few chemotherapy medications effectively treat brain metastases,” said Dr. Petty.  “In his proposal, Dr. Du attempts to deliver better immunologic treatments to lung cancer deposits in the brain by attaching a brain directed homing signal to cancer targeting immune cells called CAR-T cells.  If successful, Dr. Du’s highly innovative approach could change the landscape for targeted immunotherapy.”

The Vicky Amidon Innovation in Lung Cancer Research Award is named in the memory of Vicky Amidon a beloved wife, mother and friend who lost her battle with lung cancer at the age of 44 and whose memory is furthered through her family’s advocacy and support for the advancement of lung cancer research and awareness. The award recognizes and supports researchers who are developing innovative lung cancer projects that will improve the lives of those at risk of or living with lung cancer.

Annually, lung cancer claims more lives in North Carolina and the US than any other cancer and more than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined.  In 2019, an estimated 8,010 individuals will be diagnosed with the disease in North Carolina.  Since 2008, LCI has funded more than $1.8 million in lung cancer research through programs including the innovation award, research fellowship grants, health disparities in lung cancer grant in partnership with the V Foundation for Cancer Research and a career development award.

About Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina

As the state’s leading non-profit organization supporting lung cancer research and education, the Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina specializes in connecting patients, survivors and loved ones with the medical and research community. The organization’s mission is to save lives and provide support to those affected by lung cancer through research, awareness, education and access programs across North Carolina.  For more information, or to get involved, please visit us at


For more information, contact Paige Humble, Executive Director of Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina, at or (919) 784-0410.




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