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Grant Recipients

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Since the beginning of our research grants program in 2005, Free to Breathe has awarded over $4 million to support lung cancer research.

2013 Impact Award

The Impact Award is a $200,000 scientific grant jointly funded by Free to Breathe and Uniting Against Lung Cancer (UALC). The largest scientific grant offered by both Free to Breathe and UALC, the Impact Award is expected to produce significant improvement for lung cancer patients within the next five years.

Adi Gazdar, MD
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Dr. Gazdar's and his team at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center are examining whether certain patients can benefit from targeted therapy drugs known as Aurora-kinase inhibitors. Ultimately, this research has the potential to reduce the time it takes for Aurora-kinase inhibitors to benefit patients through clinical trials.


2013 Young Investigator Research Grants

The Young Investigator Research Grant competition was developed to support lung cancer researchers early in their careers and ignite their interest in the field. Grant recipients will receive $100,000 total distributed over two years.

Lauren Averett Byers, MDLauren Averett Byers, MD
Assistant Professor, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive form of lung cancer that hasn’t seen significant changes to standard-of-care treatments in more than 20 years. With low SCLC survival rates, there’s an urgent, unmet need for new treatment options. In her previous research, Dr. Byers discovered that blocking a protein called PARP can help improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy for SCLC. But she has also found that tumors can learn how to adapt to PARP-blocking drugs. With this grant, Dr. Byers will examine how this resistance develops, and she’ll test new treatments that may help to overcome resistance to PARP-blocking drugs. This grant is made possible by the Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina.

Raul Catena, PhDRaul Catena, PhD
Post-Doctoral Associate, Weill Medical College of Cornell University

Dr. Catena’s research examines one of the ways lung tumors recruit normal cells to support their growth and spread to other organs. Through previous work, Dr. Catena has discovered that certain cells, called neutrophils, can be co-opted by tumors in order to start a process that encourages the growth of new blood vessels. These blood vessels provide new sources of oxygen and nutrients to fuel tumor growth. With Free to Breathe support, Dr. Catena will continue examining this process, including ways to block it, with the goal of identifying new therapies for patients.

Adam S. Crystal, MD, PhDAdam S. Crystal, MD, PhD
Clinical Fellow, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center

The lung cancer drug crizotinib has been a huge success story among targeted therapies, proven effective for up to 60% of patients who harbor a large mutation, called a translocation, in the ALK gene. However, over time, most tumors develop resistance to crizotinib and become much more difficult to treat. By investigating new drugs and methods that could overcome drug resistance, Dr. Crystal is determined to advance the treatment of lung cancer patients, in particular those with cancers driven by ALK. This grant is made possible by Free to Breathe and Uniting Against Lung Cancer.

Alexander Drilon, MDAlexander Drilon, MD
Medical Oncology Fellow, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Dr. Drilon’s phase II clinical trial is the first of its kind to determine whether certain patients with advanced NSCLC will benefit from a promising new drug, called BMS-93655. This drug is an immune system booster; instead of attacking tumors directly, it helps the body’s own immune system find and kill cancer cells. Because this drug doesn’t work for all patients, Dr. Drilon’s research will attempt to determine whether biomarkers can be used to predict who might benefit from this treatment. Advanced NSCLC is currently an incurable disease, so this research has the potential to open promising new treatment opportunities for those who desperately need them. This grant is made possible by Free to Breathe and A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation.

Yan Lu, PhDYan Lu, PhD
Assistant Professor, Medical College of Wisconsin

Scientists are learning that lung cancer can be caused not only by environmental hazards a person has been exposed to, but also by genetics. However, these roles aren’t always separate, because some people with a smoking history seem to be more likely to develop lung cancer than others with a similar history. Dr. Lu has found evidence that variations in a gene called Dock9 may play a role in lung cancer risk. Free to Breathe support will allow Dr. Lu to further examine how Dock9 affects cancer formation and investigate ways it may eventually be targeted with therapy. This grant is made possible through the Louisiana Hope Research Grant provided by Free to Breathe.

Narendra Wajapeyee, PhDNarendra Wajapeyee, PhD
Assistant Professor, Yale University School of Medicine

This research project seeks to build understanding of a genetic problem that drives lung cancer growth in approximately 50% of lung cancer patients. When the gene p53 is mutated, part of the system that controls cell growth and division becomes broken, allowing cells to grow and divide uncontrollably. Dr. Wajapeyee is working on ways to fix this system by using other genes to control cell growth, which could lead to new, effective treatments for patients whose tumors have a p53 mutation. This grant is made possible by Free to Breathe and Uniting Against Lung Cancer.

Previous grant recipients

Free to Breathe has been funding critical lung cancer research since 2005. Learn more about grant recipients from previous years.

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