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LUNGevity Foundation Issues Five Health Equity and Inclusiveness Research Awards


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LUNGevity Foundation Issues Five Health Equity and Inclusiveness Research Awards

Improving diverse representation in the scientific community promotes equity in research and healthcare delivery



Media Contact

Linda Wenger
(973) 449-3214

WASHINGTON, DC (September 20, 2022)—LUNGevity Foundation, the nation’s leading lung cancer-focused nonprofit organization, is pleased to announce the recipients of their 2022 Health Equity and Inclusiveness Research Awards.

“Recent data from 2022 shows that the oncology workforce in the United States is not diverse, with only 4.7% of oncologists identifying as Hispanic/Latinx, 3% as Black/African American, and 0.1% as American Indian/Alaska Native. We have also seen evidence suggesting patients of color have better outcomes and tend to participate in clinical trials when they are interacting with physicians who look like they do,” said Upal Basu Roy, PhD, MPH, Executive Director, LUNGevity Research. “LUNGevity is proud to provide a platform to springboard junior researchers in thoracic oncology from underrepresented minorities and provide them support to launch their careers.” 

The two awards, the Health Equity and Inclusiveness Research Fellow Award and the Health Equity and Inclusiveness Junior Investigator Award, both aim to support diversity and inclusivity within the scientific lung cancer community with special attention being paid to populations underrepresented in STEM.

Health Equity and Inclusiveness Research Fellow Awards support early-stage lung cancer researchers, from populations underrepresented in STEM, who are interested in translational lung cancer research and are conducting their fellowship research. This year, the recipient of this award is: 

Rebecca Shulman, MD
The Research Institute of Fox Chase Cancer Center
Project: Synergistic expression of combined RT and dual-immune checkpoint blockade

Dr. Shulman will use an animal model of metastatic lung cancer to test the hypothesis that radiation given in repeated and very low doses, in combination with immunotherapy, can further enhance the benefits seen with immunotherapy alone.


Health Equity and Inclusiveness Junior Investigator Awards support physician-scientists who are interested in conducting lung cancer clinical research and are within the first five years of their faculty appointments. This year, the four recipients of this award are:

Narjust Florez, MD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project: Young lung cancer: Psychosocial needs assessment

Dr. Florez will study the psychosocial and financial impact of lung cancer in young patients (less than 50 years of age.) This population has seen an increase in lung cancer incidence in recent years, but little is known about their specific needs. The study will include a survey component as well as focus groups to understand the unmet needs of this group of patients. The information gathered in this study will be used to identify challenges unique to this population and develop the first clinical and research program of its kind for young lung cancer patients.

Coral Olazagasti, MD
University of Miami
Project: Promoting lung cancer screening in Latinx patients with previous HNSCC

Dr. Olazagasti will conduct interviews and use questionnaires to study Hispanic/Latinx patients with a history of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) to understand their unique needs for lung cancer screening, such as barriers to screening, awareness of screening, and eligibility for screening. Head and neck cancer survivors with a history of smoking have up to a 13% risk of developing lung cancer. The goal of this research is to create the first lung cancer screening program tailored to and focused exclusively on Hispanic/Latinx HNSCC survivors.

Ana Velasquez Manana, MD
University of California, San Francisco
Project: Lung Equity Through Social needs SCREENING (LETS SCREEN)

Dr. Velasquez Manana will conduct an observational study in a multiethnic group of patients with unresectable lung cancer to determine the association between social needs, care utilization, and quality of life. The goal of this study is to fill a key knowledge gap in the care of patients with NSCLC and inform interventions to support patients at risk of social adversity during treatment to end disparities in lung cancer care.

Jonathan Villena-Vargas, MD
Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Project: Tumor draining lymph node immunomodulation to decrease recurrence in NSCLC

Dr. Villena-Vargas will study the lymphatic system, a network of tissues and organs that produce, store, and carry white blood cells that fight infections and other diseases, as a way to reduce recurrence of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This project will use animal models to determine if immune checkpoint inhibitors enhance lymph node T-cell memory and increase their ability to recognize cancer cells in the body and prevent metastatic recurrence.


These two awards were strategically created to support young researchers at different stages of their careers.

LUNGevity uses a rigorous approach to choose awardees. Each research project for the two vehicles is evaluated by a multidisciplinary review committee of thoracic oncology leaders who are committed to mentoring underrepresented minority scientists.  

Dr. Villena-Vargas’ research is being supported this year through our inaugural Thermo Fisher Scientific-LUNGevity Health Equity and Inclusiveness Junior Investigator Award.

“We are pleased to partner with LUNGevity Foundation to support Dr. Villena-Vargas’ research into NSCLC focused on preventing recurrence. Building an inclusive community of researchers and treatment centers helps ensure everyone has a real opportunity to achieve optimal lung cancer care,” says Luca Quagliata, PhD, BCMAS, global head of medical affairs for clinical next-generation sequencing and oncology at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “Through our Oncomine Clinical Research Grant program and this collaboration with LUNGevity, we are committed to supporting emerging research for cancer to help improve the development of and access to new treatment options.”


About LUNGevity Foundation

LUNGevity Foundation is the nation's leading lung cancer organization focused on improving outcomes for people with lung cancer. The foundation works tirelessly to advance research into early detection and more effective treatments, and to ensure that patients have access to these advances. LUNGevity seeks to make an immediate impact on quality of life and survivorship for everyone touched by the disease—while promoting health equity by addressing disparities throughout the care continuum. LUNGevity provides information and educational tools to empower patients and their caregivers, promote impactful public policy initiatives, and amplify the patient voice through research and engagement. The organization provides an active community for patients and survivors—and those who help them live better and longer lives.

Comprehensive resources include a medically vetted and patient-centric website, a toll-free HELPLine for support, the International Lung Cancer Survivorship Conference, and an easy-to-use Clinical Trial Finder, among other tools. All of these programs are to achieve our vision—a world where no one dies of lung cancer. LUNGevity Foundation is proud to be a four-star Charity Navigator organization.

About Lung Cancer in the US

About 1 in 17 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime.

More than 236,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year.

About 60%-65% of all new lung cancer diagnoses are among people who have never smoked or are former smokers.

Lung cancer takes more lives in the United States than the next two deadliest cancers (colorectal and pancreatic) combined.

Only about 23% of all people diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States will survive 5 years or more, BUT if it is caught before it spreads, the chance of 5-year survival improves dramatically.

Please visit LUNGevity.org to learn more.

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