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Free to Breathe 2016 Metastasis Research Grant Award Winners Announced

Free to Breathe is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 Metastasis Research Grant competition. Now in its second year, the Metastasis Research Grant funds projects that focus on preventing or stopping lung cancer metastasis. Lung cancer is the nation’s deadliest cancer. Nearly 160,000 Americans will die of lung cancer this year, which is more deaths than ­colorectal, breast and prostate cancers combined. By funding research to address metastasis, Free to Breathe advances its mission to improve the survival of patients with lung cancer. A key component of the funded projects is to translate the work to clinical trials by the end of the award period. The 2016 awards by Free to Breathe will provide a total of $600,000 in funding.

The grant applications for 2016 were judged to be highly meritorious by the Free to Breathe Grants Review Committee, which includes oncologists, researchers and patient advocates. As a result of careful deliberation, Free to Breathe elected to provide funding to the top two grant applications.

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.


2015 Metastasis Grants

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.

Targeting Lung Cancer Metastasis
 to the Brain and Bone

Ann Marie Pendergast, PhD and Mark Onaitis, MD
Duke University School of Medicine

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.

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Blocking ART1 Proteins to Prevent Lung Cancer Metastasis

Brendon Stiles, MD, Timothy McGraw, PhD and Vivek Mittal, PhD
Weill Medical College of Cornell University

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.

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Previous grant recipients

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.

©2017 Free To Breathe | All rights reserved. | Federal tax exempt ID number: 45-0505050.