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Lovly’s research bolstered by lung cancer foundation

Jul. 17, 2014, 9:13 AM

The LUNGevity Foundation has awarded a 2014 Career Development Award for Translational Research to Christine Lovly, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology.

Christine Lovly, M.D., Ph.D.

Lovly is one of three recipients of the annual grants, which provide $300,000 over three years for lung cancer research.

“This is a wonderful award and I am so pleased and honored that the LUNGevity Foundation has decided to support this important research,” said Lovly.

The LUNGevity Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating research into early detection and more effective treatments for lung cancer, in addition to providing community support and education for patients and families.

The Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board is led by Pierre Massion, M.D., Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and director of the Thoracic Program at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.
The LUNGevity Career Development Award will help fund Lovly’s project to study why drugs that target a specific gene fusion in lung cancer eventually stop working.

Molecular alterations in the ALK gene are detected in a small percentage of patients with lung cancer. Drugs which inhibit or block the activity of ALK have demonstrated remarkable clinical results in patients with ALK+ lung cancer.

Unfortunately, despite these results, virtually all of the patients eventually develop resistance to the therapy.

The goal of Lovly’s research is to develop novel, rationally selected therapeutic strategies to delay and/or overcome acquired resistance to ALK inhibitor drugs.

Using a combination of experimental approaches, including cell culture models, biochemical assays and a study of patient tumor samples prior to and at the time of acquired resistance to ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy, she will study how ALK transmits signals to promote cancer growth and how these signals become altered in the context of acquired resistance. This work will identify novel targets that can be blocked, in combination with ALK inhibitors, to promote enhanced anti-tumor responses.

The results of these studies are expected not only to provide additional insight into ALK+ lung cancer, but will also extend to many other cancers that also harbor ALK molecular alterations.

In addition to her laboratory work, Lovly is co-editor of My Cancer Genome, a Vanderbilt-powered freely available online resource that provides up-to-date information about tumor gene mutations and implications for targeted therapies.

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