Skip to main content

Lung cancer detection program lands grant renewal

Sep. 15, 2022, 8:55 AM

Members of the newly named MASLAB gathered for a portrait on the Medical Center Plaza. The early lung cancer detection research initiative was named in honor of the late Pierre Massion, MD.
Members of the newly named MASLAB gathered for a portrait on the Medical Center Plaza. The early lung cancer detection research initiative was named in honor of the late Pierre Massion, MD. (photo by Susan Urmy)

by Tom Wilemon

The National Cancer Institute has renewed funding for the Early Detection Research Network Lung Cancer Clinical Validation Center at Vanderbilt- Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) to detect lung cancer at early stages utilizing biomarkers — an initiative that was started in 2010 and led by Pierre Massion, MD, who died in April 2021.

The $5.2 million grant provides support to the program for the next five years. Eric Grogan, MD, MPH, associate professor of Thoracic Surgery, Medicine, and Radiology and Radiological Sciences, and Stephen Deppen, PhD, associate professor of Thoracic Surgery, are the principal investigators of the grant.

Along with Fabien Maldonado, MD, a pulmonologist with expertise in clinical trials, the team has restructured the lab and named it MASLAB (Multidisciplinary Assessment and Stratification of Lung Cancer with Biomarkers) in memory of Massion.

“We are honored to continue the legacy of Dr. Massion and are laser focused to bring biomarkers into routine clinical practice for the early diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. Leadership in the Section of Surgical Sciences, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, and VICC have been incredibly supportive to help us establish a cross-disciplinary program that has a broad diverse platform to ensure success,” said Grogan.

MASLAB will maintain the core staff who worked with Massion’s laboratory. The lab under his direction was a recognized national leader with over a decade of NCI funding to develop and validate lung cancer biomarkers. He was an internationally known expert on early detection and prevention strategies for lung cancer, who was director of the Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Initiative and co-leader of the Cancer Health Outcomes and Control Research Program at VICC.

“With this funding and transitioning to a multidisciplinary leadership, we have seamlessly moved to continue the important collaborations with industry and academic researchers developing and translating novel biomarkers to the bedside. Just as the science of biomarkers has radically changed in the past few years, the MASLAB will change along with it to develop and evaluate clinically meaningful diagnostic tools to translate them from the benchtop to the bedside,” said Deppen.

The study funded by the grant is titled “Clinical Utility of Biomarkers Driven Management of Indeterminate Pulmonary Nodules.”

It is designed to address the major and growing unmet need to better assess indeterminate pulmonary nodules that are identified during lung screens, so physicians can distinguish whether they are cancerous or benign, reduce the time to diagnosis for cancers and minimize invasive procedures in patients without cancer.

The planned utility trial combines a well-known cancer biomarker, CYFRA 21-1, using novel technology developed in partnership with the Bornhop Lab at Vanderbilt University, CT imaging radiomic features and a fungal biomarker to rule out benign disease.

The approach of combining different biomarkers together hopes to greatly improve current noninvasive assessments of indeterminate pulmonary nodules. Vanderbilt University Medical Center will conduct the research in collaboration with three other medical institutions.

Recent Stories from VUMC News and Communications Publications

Vanderbilt Medicine
VUMC Voice