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VICC’s Hassanein lands lung cancer research grant

Aug. 2, 2012, 10:23 AM

Mohamed Hassanein, Ph.D., is working to develop noninvasive tests to help diagnose lung cancer. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Mohamed Hassanein, Ph.D., research instructor in Pulmonary Medicine, has received a Career Development Award from the LUNGevity Foundation to work on the development of noninvasive tests to help diagnose lung cancer.

He will receive $300,000 over three years in support of his research efforts. Hassanein, who specializes in molecular biology and genetics, works in the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center laboratory of Pierre Massion, M.D., associate professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology.
Lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer in the United States, claiming more lives every year than prostate, colon and breast cancers combined.

The cancer is often found late in the disease process when it is difficult to treat, so the five-year survival rate is very low.

Right now, imaging tests like X-rays and CT scans are used to screen for lung cancer but nodules seen on these images may simply be benign clumps of cells, so surgical biopsies are required to confirm a cancer diagnosis.

Hassanein is investigating how to harness the body’s own immune response, which generates antibodies known as “autoantibodies” that react to proteins that are overexpressed in cancer cells.

The idea is to identify a panel of these autoantibodies and use this screening test to distinguish between patients with malignant nodules compared with benign nodules.

Hassanein and several of his VICC colleagues are trying to identify and validate these biomarkers so they could be used to develop a simple blood test to screen for lung cancer.

The LUNGevity Foundation is one of the largest nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving lung cancer survival rates and enhancing quality of life for patients.

The foundation funds promising research for the early detection and successful treatment of lung cancer and supports a national grassroots network and online support community for lung cancer patients and their families.

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