Recipients of the 2015-2016 Research Fellows Grants


Adam Belanger, MD

Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Fellow

University of North Carolina

Project Title: MicroRNA Drivers of Lymphatic Metastasis in Lung Squamous Cell Carcinoma 


We are studying the mechanisms by which squamous cell lung cancer, a specific subtype of lung cancer, spreads from the initial tumor to the lymph nodes. This process, also known as metastasis, ultimately causes the death of most lung cancer patients. Micro-RNAs are small molecules which regulate the production of numerous proteins; they have been shown to regulate the metastatic process in other cancers. We are looking for micro-RNAs, which regulate the metastasis of squamous cell lung cancer to the lymph nodes, in the hope to identify future targets for treatment.



Jeffrey M. Clarke, MD

Fellow, Divisions of Hematology, Cellular Therapy, and Medical Oncology

Department of Medicine

Duke University Medical Center


Project Title: Evaluation of Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes in Resected Non Small Cell Lung Cancer


New treatments for lung cancer today help the body’s own immune system kill tumor cells.  In order to better understand how the immune system fights cancer and how to improve these therapies, we plan to study tumors that have been surgically removed from patients.  We will study how chemotherapy influences the body’s immune system and impacts its ability to kill lung cancer cells. Specifically, we will examine the types of immune cells present in tumors and describe signals that trigger the body to attack cancer.  Tumors will be compared between patients with lung cancer who receive chemotherapy prior to surgery and patients who undergo surgery alone.  Our hope is that by describing the impact of chemotherapy on the immune system, we can gain insight on how to further help the immune system eliminate cancer in our patients.  



Sulochana D Cherukuri, MD

3rd year fellow in Hematology/ Oncology

Brody School of Medicine/ East Carolina University


Project Title: Aromatase Inhibitors in Metastatic Non Small Cell Lung Cancer in Postmenopausal Women


Emerging evidence suggests that estrogen signaling is involved in the pathogenesis of lung cancer and that estrogen stimulates the growth of the tumor. Aromatase is an enzyme that is responsible for a key step in the biosynthesis of estrogen and the aromatase-inhibiting (AI) drugs block that activity, thus inhibiting the synthesis of estrogen, and therefore decreasing the levels of estrogen in the body.

Our project is to therapeutically target the estrogen signaling pathway in post-menopausal women with high expression of Aromatase enzyme, with an aromatase inhibitor, anastrozole, together with standard chemotherapy. The thinking behind that being that less estrogen circulating in the body adds less fuel to the tumor. This drug is well known, proven effective in breast cancer treatment and well tolerated by the patient.  In combination with standard chemotherapy better treatment response and outcomes are expected.



Sarah Ellen Elza Stephens, MD

Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Fellow

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center


Project Title: Health Disparities: Perceptions In Lung Cancer Screening


Minority groups and individuals of low socioeconomic status have historically been underrepresented in clinical trials and utilization of screening tests for various cancers. Using a validated questionnaire, our goal is to identify the perceived barriers to participation in lung cancer screening, with a particular focus on minority and low socioeconomic status groups.  


Click here to view the publication of this project.

Any questions about our Research Fellows can be sent to Jenni Danai at

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