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LUNGevity Strengthens Investment in Early Detection and Interception of Lung Cancer Research – Potential to Save Thousands of Lives

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LUNGevity Foundation, the nation’s leading lung cancer-focused organization, announced the funding of two research teams that will focus on lung cancer interception: catching precancerous cells and blocking them from turning into cancer cells. These awards are the first-ever Stand Up To Cancer awards focused on the early detection and interception of lung cancer and build on LUNGevity’s eight-year direct investment in critical early detection lung cancer research.

"Finding lung cancer early, when it is most treatable, is a critical step to saving thousands of lives," said Andrea Ferris, President and CEO of LUNGevity, "especially since currently only 15% of patients are diagnosed at this stage. Our long-term strategic focus and investment in finding better ways to detect, diagnose, and now intercept lung cancer in its earliest stages is strengthened by this collaboration with SU2C and the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative. It is our goal to find noninvasive, widely available diagnostic and early detection tools that will dramatically change outcomes for people with lung cancer.”

The interdisciplinary and multi-institutional awards include a Lung Cancer Interception Dream Team, and a Lung Cancer Interception Translational Research Team.

SU2C-LUNGevity Foundation-American Lung Association Lung Cancer Interception Dream Team: Intercept Lung Cancer Through Immune, Imaging, & Molecular Evaluation (InTIME)

Funding: $5 million

Leader: Avrum Spira, MD, professor of medicine, pathology and bioinformatics, and director of the Cancer Center at Boston University-Boston Medical Center

Co-leader: Steven Dubinett, MD, associate vice chancellor for research at UCLA and director of the lung cancer research program at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Lung Cancer Interception Dream Team will develop diagnostic tools, such as nasal swabs, blood tests, and radiological imaging, to confirm whether lung abnormalities found on chest imaging are benign lung disease or lung cancer.  To protect against recurrence of disease that has already been successfully treated, new blood tests will help identify patients at the earliest stages of recurrence, enabling timely interventions such as immunotherapy.

"We plan to develop technology that can, in a very sensitive way, pick up the small amount of DNA that might be present in the blood of someone who’s harboring a lung cancer deep within their lung tissue – a noninvasive way of measuring a person’s risk of having lung cancer," Dr. Spira said.

SU2C-LUNGevity Foundation-American Lung Association Lung Cancer Interception Translational Research Team: Blood-based Early Interception of Lung Cancer

Funding: $2 million

Leader: Lecia Sequist, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine, and director of the Center for Innovation in Early Cancer Detection (CIECD) at Massachusetts General Hospital

Co-leader: Maximilian Diehn, MD, PhD, assistant professor of radiation oncology, Stanford University School of Medicine

The Lung Cancer Interception Translational Research Team will develop a lung cancer interception assay (LCIA) that can be used in conjunction with low-dose CT scans, based on blood-based assays that examine circulating tumor cells and circulating tumor DNA. After completing pilot testing as part of this Translational Research Grant, the team plans to move the LCIA forward to larger, prospective clinical trials.

"It’s extremely frustrating that we’re not technically able to find lung cancer earlier in the majority of patients,” Dr. Sequist said. “We need to change the paradigm that we use to identify patients so that they are found early enough to offer them curative treatment. If we really want to save more lives from lung cancer, we have to exponentially improve our diagnostics."

LUNGevity is the only lung cancer nonprofit with a programmatic focus on funding early detection research, to find lung cancer when it is most treatable. Currently, only 15% of people with lung cancer are diagnosed in the earliest stages, resulting in a 5-year survival rate of only 17.7%.  These projects expand on LUNGevity’s eight-year investment in early detection research with the goal of developing an effective, widely available, noninvasive way of finding lung cancer early in all populations.

Click here to read the full press release.

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