Free to Breathe's 2016 Metastasis Research Grant competition resulted in two awards totaling $600,000 in funding.
The first award winner is Chad Pecot, MD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of North Carolina. His project is titled “Targeting Lung Squamous Metastasis with CCR2 Inhibitors.” Although targeted therapies have been developed to treat specific mutations of adenocarcinoma of the lung, similar advances in the treatment of squamous cell carcinoma have been lacking. Recently, studies of immunotherapies have produced promising results in squamous cell lung cancer. Dr. Pecot’s project is designed to explore the role of a novel approach to immunotherapy in the treatment of squamous cell lung cancer.
The project aims to evaluate whether targeting inflammatory monocytes (a type of white blood cell) through the use of CCR2 [or chemokine (C‐C motif) receptor 2] inhibitors will blunt or stop metastasis in squamous cell lung cancer. CCR2 inhibitors work by stopping the recruitment of monocytes, which cancers can exploit to promote metastasis. This approach may be synergistic with PD-1 checkpoint inhibitors that help turn on the body’s defenses against cancer. The proposed research is intended to lead to a clinical trial of a CCR2 inhibitor used in combination with a PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor. Dr. Pecot will receive a total of $400,000 over a 3-year period.
The second award winner is Trever Bivona, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Hematology and Oncology at the University of California, San Francisco. His project is titled “Discovery and Therapeutic Exploitation of a Novel Metastatic Signaling Axis in Lung Cancer.” Many changes in regulatory proteins and signaling pathways have been associated with the growth and spread of tumor cells. In some types of cancers, including lung cancer, ways to target signaling pathways have led to effective treatments. The goal of Dr. Bivona’s project is to look at new ways to disrupt signaling pathways to prevent or stop metastasis of lung cancer.
Dr. Bivona’s laboratory had previously discovered that a regulatory protein known as Capicua (CIC) can help suppress metastasis. This protein has been shown to be deregulated or blocked by a signaling pathway known as the MAPK pathway. The MAPK pathway is involved in processes such as tumor cell migration, invasion and metastasis. The study will test whether drugs that block MAPK signaling can boost CIC function and, ultimately, prevent or stop metastasis. Suppressing lung cancer metastasis in a new way could improve survival of patients with lung cancer. Dr. Bivona will receive $200,000 over a 2-year period.
Co-investigators Amy Leader, DrPH, MPH and Ralph Zinner, MD of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University are the winners of the second Free to Breathe Accelerate Clinical Trials (ACT) Research Grant award. The ACT grant is a funding opportunity launched by Free to Breathe to investigate strategies or interventions to increase patient enrollment in therapeutic lung cancer clinical trials. The intent of the Free to Breathe ACT Research Grant is to fund projects that will be reproducible and implementable within clinical practice. An overall goal is to improve rates of patient accrual to lung cancer clinical trials by at least 50% within a defined healthcare facility, system or community.
Dr. Leader is an Associate Professor in the Division of Population Science in the Department of Medical Oncology. Dr. Zinner is a Professor of Medicine and the Director of the Thoracic/Aerodigestive Program in the Department of Oncology. Their project is titled: Increasing Shared Decision Making and Patient Participation in Lung Cancer Clinical Trials. Although clinical trials are an option for patients diagnosed with lung cancer, patients often lack of knowledge about clinical trials or have misconceptions about trials. In addition, patients and their caregivers are often overwhelmed when making decisions about treatment.
Decision aids (DA) are one way to educate patients about their available options and reduce decisional anxiety. DAs are intended to provide patients with information and clarify their values and preferences regarding important health decisions. Several DAs have been developed to promote participation in clinical trials; however, few have directly targeted enrollment into lung cancer clinical trials. In this study, a trained nurse educator will use a Decision Counseling Program before the patient’s visit with an oncologist. The Decision Counseling Program was developed by Ronald Myers, DSW, PhD, Professor of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University and co-investigator of the study. This program is designed to educate the patient about clinical trials in general and guide them through values and personal preference clarification exercises related to options for their lung cancer. Data collected will improve our understanding of the impact of decision aids on patient knowledge, deliberation related to personal values, preference clarification and decision making related to therapeutic lung cancer clinical trials. Scott Cowan, MD, Associate Professor, Cardiothoracic Surgery, is also a co-investigator and will be an integral part of the study through his clinical expertise working with patients with lung cancer.
Thanks to the support of Free to Breathe donors and fundraisers, we awarded our first three-year metastasis grant to two promising research teams in 2015.
The spread of cancer cells, or metastasis, to the brain and bones is responsible for about 90% of lung cancer deaths. Since a large number of patients treated with current therapies develop brain and bone metastasis, new therapies that prevent and stop cancer cells from spreading are urgently needed. Drs. Pendergast and Onaitis aim to find these new therapies.
ART1 is a protein that Dr. Stiles and his team have found to be commonly expressed in high amounts on the surface of lung cancer cells. The researchers discovered that ART1 might play an important role in the ability of lung cancer cells to spread, or metastasize.
Neal Meropol, MD, FASCO, Professor and Division Chief of Hematology and Oncology, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Case Western Reserve University, was awarded the first Free to Breathe Accelerate Clinical Trials (ACT) Research Grant.
Free to Breathe has been funding critical lung cancer research since 2005. Learn more about grant recipients from previous years >
For more information about the Metastasis Research Grant program, please contact Mary F. Henningfield, PhD, Director of Scientific Education and Research, Free to Breathe.
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