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, a top-rated cancer research charity, through the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund and in collaboration with the Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina, the state’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to lung cancer research and education, is excited to award a Designated Grant for $300,000. 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 2019 grant recipient is Jared Weiss, M.D., at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

Grant Winner

Jared Weiss, MD, at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

Lung cancer causes more deaths than the next three cancers combined, and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is the most aggressive type. Lung cancer disproportionally affects African Americans. Existing therapies prolong life, but only by months, and at the cost of substantial side effects. Within the immune system, T cells are particularly important for fighting cancer, but in patients with SCLC, neither the native immune system alone, nor with augmentation with existing immunotherapy, controls cancer durably. CAR-T is an exciting new technology that modifies a patient’s own T cells to recognize and attack cancer cells that bare a particular marker. This technology has revolutionized the care of some lymphomas and leukemias, including cures.

We have made a CAR-T for the treatment of Glioblastoma Multiforme because it bears a particular marker, GD2. 60% of SCLC also has GD2 and so we hypothesize that for these patients, GD2-directed CAR-T could provide dramatic tumor regression. Our cancer center has committed funding to a clinical trial if we can provide the necessary data to support it. More specifically, we would like to treat animal models of human SCLC with the proposed therapy to see if it is safe and effective. We would study where the CAR-T cells go and how well they kill cancer cells. The CAR-T contains a safety switch in case of side effects; we would test to make sure that it works. During the resulting human trial, we also seek funding to assess where the T cells go.


Young Investigator Research Grants

In the past, Lung Cancer Initiative has funded lung cancer research through Free to Breathe's (formerly National Lung Cancer Partnership) Young Investigator Research Grant Competition. Our support has jump-started the careers of researchers who have gone on to receive continued funding for their work from the National Institute of Health, Department of Defense, and the American Cancer Society.  You can read more about the research we have funded through their program below. 

Past researchers include:

2014 Recipient

Kavitha Yaddanapudi, PhD, University of Lousiville

Dr. Yaddanapudi and her research team have made the discovery that a stem cell-based vaccine can prevent the development of lung cancer in mice. Researchers believe this vaccine targets special cells, called cancer-initiating stem cells, which are responsible for tumor growth and spread. With this grant, Dr. Yaddanapudi will further investigate how this vaccine works and evaluate its potential use in preventing lung cancer relapse, especially in patients with treatment-resistant lung cancers.

This grant was funded through our partnership with Free to Breathe's Young Investigator Research Grant Program.

 2013 Recipient

Lauren Averett Byers, MD
Assistant Professor, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive form of lung cancer that hasn’t seen significant changes to standard-of-care treatments in more than 20 years. With low SCLC survival rates, there’s an urgent, unmet need for new treatment options. In her previous research, Dr. Byers discovered that blocking a protein called PARP can help improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy for SCLC. But she has also found that tumors can learn how to adapt to PARP-blocking drugs. With this grant, Dr. Byers will examine how this resistance develops, and she’ll test new treatments that may help to overcome resistance to PARP-blocking drugs. 

 2012 Recipient

Rinat Zaynagetdinov, MD, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Vanderbilt University

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition in which the immune system responds to an outside irritant, causing inflammation in the airway. This inflammation is an unnatural state for the lungs to continue to experience, and leads to a higher risk of lung cancer for people with COPD. Dr. Zaynagetdinov’s research seeks to understand how certain immune system cells present in inflammation, myeloid cells, promote lung cancer. This project is also investigating how a specific protein complex, NF-kB, affects the formation of those immune cells. Ultimately, this research could lead to new methods for preventing lung cancer, particularly in people with COPD

2011 Recipient

Claire Simpson, PhD

Visiting Fellow, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health
The risk of developing lung cancer differs between individuals depending in part upon the genes they carry and their exposure to cancer-causing chemicals and agents.  Genetic variation of a region on chromosome 6 appears to result in a greater risk of developing lung cancer regardless of a person’s smoking history.  By determining the sequence of DNA in the region, Dr. Simpson may be able to find the specific mutations responsible for this increased risk.  In addition, Dr. Simpson will continue to look for genes in other regions of the genome that may also affect lung cancer risk. Identification of gene markers indicating higher risk of lung cancer may ultimately improve early detection of the disease. Dr. Simpson's research is supported by the North Carolina Lung Cancer Partnership.

 2010 Recipients

Heidi Hamann, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Lung cancer patients may feel shame and guilt related to their disease due to the stigma of lung cancer’s association with smoking.  This stigma can negatively affect their care and treatment.  Dr. Hamann is working to develop a way to measure lung cancer stigma, examine differences between what men and women experience, and study how stigma affects patients’ communications with their doctors.  Learning more about lung cancer stigma will allow clinicians to directly address and reduce this stigma and eventually improve treatment and care for lung cancer patients. 

Mark Onaitis, M.D., Assistant Professor, Duke University Medical Center

Dr. Onaitis is seeking to better understand the complexity of lung cancer tumors by characterizing tumor-initiating cells and how they respond to certain molecular signals.  He will investigate how the type and location of a tumor-initiating cell contributes to the aggressiveness of the cancer.  A better understanding of the different types of cells within a tumor and how those cells are affected by cell signals could help develop more effective targeted therapies. This grant is also supported by the LUNGevity Foundation.

Lauren Averett Byers, MD
Assistant Professor, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

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