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Yale Cancer Center receives $11 million from National Cancer Institute for lung cancer research

August 27, 2015
by Vicky Agnew

Armed with an $11 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven will launch a new research program in non-small cell lung cancer, one of the world’s most prevalent and lethal forms of cancer.

Known as a Specialized Program of Research Excellence, or SPORE, the new research program harnesses the strengths of academic cancer centers by bringing together experts in oncology, immunobiology, pharmacology, molecular biology, pathology, epidemiology, and addiction science to collaborate on projects.

“The only way to approach a problem as big as lung cancer is to have experts in basic, translational, and clinical research working on several fronts taking the research from the lab to the clinic and back again to develop even newer insights,” said principal investigator Roy S. Herbst, M.D., the Ensign Professor of Medicine, chief of the Medical Oncology Program at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, and associate director for the Translational Research Program at Yale Cancer Center. “This effort represents tremendous teamwork by investigators to combat this very common and all-too-fatal disease.”

Nearly 90% of lung cancers worldwide are non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cases, which are largely incurable once they become metastatic. While most cases are linked to smoking, experts are increasingly identifying mutations in light smokers and never-smokers that are treatable.

“This is an exciting time to do cancer research in areas like immunotherapy,” said Lieping Chen, M.D., the United Technologies Corporation Professor in Cancer Research and co-director of the Cancer Immunology Program at Yale Cancer Center. “With this award from the NCI, we hope to make a big difference in treating and preventing lung cancer.”

The Yale SPORE will conduct projects in immunotherapy, precision medicine, drug development, and smoking cessation. Teams will also work to identify new translational research avenues, and train young physician-researchers for careers in lung cancer. Frank J. Slack, director of the Institute for RNA Medicine at the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, will co-lead a project examining microRNAs as therapeutics for lung cancer. Slack was formerly on faculty at Yale and retains a research affiliation.

Yale is one of five institutions in the country with a SPORE devoted to lung cancer and one of 13 institutions to house more than one SPORE. The other program focuses on skin cancer.

Submitted by Renee Gaudette on August 27, 2015