Drs. Kathryn Arbour, Carl Gay, and Sean Pitroda receive prestigious LUNGevity 2020 Career Development Awards

Awards support exceptional young researchers to advance the field of lung cancer research
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Linda Wenger
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WASHINGTON, DC (September 11, 2020) — LUNGevity Foundation, the nation’s leading lung cancer-focused nonprofit organization, announced today the recipients of its 2020 Career Development Awards (CDAs) for lung cancer research. These coveted awards fund critical lung cancer research projects and offer the recipients world-class guidance by LUNGevity’s distinguished Scientific Advisory Board.

LUNGevity is proud to support the following biomarker-driven 2020 Career Development Award projects:

Kathryn Arbour, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Mechanisms of resistance to direct KRAS G12C inhibition. Dr. Arbour will test a combination treatment regimen (MRTX849 for KRAS G12C and TNO155 for SHP2) in specialized mouse models of KRAS-mutant lung cancer, as well as analyze blood samples from patients who are currently receiving the MRTX849 drug to proactively monitor how these patients are developing resistance to MRTX849. Her ultimate goal is for new drugs, such as TNO155, to be added to the treatment regimen for KRAS-positive patients to combat acquire resistance. Dr. Arbour is the recipient of the Kristie Rolke Smith/LUNGevity Career Development Award, generously funded by the Rolke family in memory of their daughter, Kristie.

Carl Gay, MD, PhD, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, SCLC molecular subtypes to predict targeted and immune therapy response. Dr. Gay and his team will test an immunotherapy-DNA damage response (DDR) inhibitor combination therapy in SCLC patients and validate a biomarker profile. Dr. Gay’s research aims to develop a new drug therapy combination and determine which patients are likely to benefit from it.

Sean Pitroda, MD, The University of Chicago, Predictive biomarkers of radio-immunotherapeutic response in NSCLC. Dr. Pitroda and his team will develop a biomarker signature that can predict which patients are the most likely to benefit from an immunotherapy-radiation therapy combination. The ultimate goal is to determine which patients are likely to benefit from this combination treatment.

“We are thrilled to support these already-accomplished young investigators who are working in key areas of lung cancer research: one working to understand and prevent resistance to drugs targeting the KRAS mutation, and two seeking to develop novel strategies to enhance the benefits of immunotherapy – through combination with DNA damage response inhibitors, or with radiation,” notes Charles Rudin, MD, PhD, professor and chief of the Thoracic Oncology Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and chair of LUNGevity’s Scientific Advisory Board. “Our funding of this year’s group of awardees will help make progress in facing these challenges and continue to improve outcomes for lung cancer patients.” 

Each of these prestigious three-year awards is for $100,000 per year, renewable in the second and third years based on research progress. Awardees serve as non-voting members of LUNGevity’s Scientific Advisory Board for the terms of their awards. Awardees are mentored by senior lung cancer experts at their own institutions as well as by experts from the Scientific Advisory Board. They also receive training in effective science communications.

“By funding young investigators, LUNGevity keeps outstanding scientists, still early in their careers, in the lung cancer space. We work closely with these researchers with the hope of seeing them become the next generation of scientific superstars,” says Dr. Upal Basu Roy, Vice President of Research at LUNGevity. “The CDA program encourages their continued development in the field of lung cancer research to grow a strong pipeline of dedicated lung cancer researchers.”

Under the stewardship of LUNGevity’s Scientific Advisory Board, a group of 26 prominent scientists and researchers, LUNGevity ensures that grants are awarded to those researchers whose proposals demonstrate the greatest potential for finding lung cancer at its earliest, most treatable phase, as well as for extending and improving lives of lung cancer survivors.

LUNGevity is the only lung cancer organization with a programmatic focus on early detection and a robust Career Development Award Program. Our researchers are working on finding a better way to detect lung cancer, and to better diagnose, treat, and prevent its recurrence. The foundation’s overall research program, including CDA awards, is a crucial factor in moving the science forward to improve outcomes for people living with lung cancer.

LUNGevity’s Scientific Research Program is supported by the American Lung Association, Bristol-Myers Squibb, The Thomas G. Labrecque Foundation, Takeda, the Rolkes, and individual donors.

About LUNGevity Foundation

LUNGevity Foundation is the nation’s leading lung cancer organization focused on improving outcomes for people with lung cancer through research, policy initiatives, education, support, and engagement for patients, survivors, and caregivers. LUNGevity seeks to make an immediate impact on quality of life and survivorship for everyone touched by the disease—while promoting health equity by addressing disparities throughout the care continuum. LUNGevity works tirelessly to advance research into early detection and more effective treatments, provide information and educational tools to empower patients and their caregivers, promote impactful public policy initiatives, and amplify the patient voice through research and engagement. The organization provides an active community for patients and survivors—and those who help them live longer and better lives. 

Comprehensive resources include a medically vetted and patient-centric website, a toll-free HELPLine for support, the International Lung Cancer Survivorship Conference, and an easy-to-use Clinical Trial Finder, among other tools. All of these programs are to achieve our vision—a world where no one dies of lung cancer. LUNGevity Foundation is proud to be a four-star Charity Navigator organization.

About Lung Cancer in the US

  • About 1 in 16 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime.
  • More than 228,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year.
  • About 60%-65% of all new lung cancer diagnoses are among people who have never smoked or are former smokers.
  • Lung cancer takes more lives than the next three leading cancers (colorectal, breast, and prostate) combined.
  • Only 19% of all people diagnosed with lung cancer will survive 5 years or more, BUT if it is caught before it spreads, the chance of 5-year survival improves dramatically.