February 3, 2011

VICC’s Lovly receives grant for innovative lung cancer research

VICC’s Lovly receives grant for innovative lung cancer research

Uniting Against Lung Cancer, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding innovative lung cancer research in the United States and Canada, has awarded a $100,000 grant to Christine Lovly, M.D., Ph.D., a fellow in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

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

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

The two-year grant will fund Lovly's research on better treatment options for a subset of lung cancer patients harboring specific genomic alterations in the ALK gene.

“I am so honored to receive this support for our lung cancer research,” said Lovly, who works in the research laboratory of William Pao, M.D., Ph.D., director of Personalized Cancer Medicine at VICC.

“We know that patients with specific genetic mutations in their tumors respond to drugs that target those mutations. Unfortunately, after a certain amount of time, the cancer cells find a way around the targeted therapy and the disease will relapse,” said Lovly.

“We are trying to determine what is going on in the tumor at the molecular level so that when a patient does relapse on treatment, we know what to do next to get a better response and to give the patient a better life.

“We also want to determine if we can combine specific targeted therapies to achieve a more durable response.”

More than 200,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.

Lung cancer has few symptoms during the early stages of the disease, so it is often found late, which is one of the reasons lung cancer kills more people than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined.

Lovly describes lung cancer as a major public health issue because there is no cure for advanced disease.

“If we understand what is going on inside tumor cells we may be able to manage advanced cancer as a chronic disease, like diabetes or high blood pressure,” Lovly explained.