Upstage Lung Cancer is proud to announce the award of our 2nd major research grant in conjunction with the LUNGevity Foundation. Our 2012-2013 grant goes to Dr. Rebecca Heist of Mass General Cancer Center to support the second year of her innovative research is identifying new tumor genetic changes in lung cancer. This work is an important step in developing clinical trials for novel agents in lung cancer treatment. Dr. Heist’s research will help to extend lives of lung cancer patients and to create new means of early detection.
The treatment of lung cancer has been revolutionized by the discovery of specific targeted therapies such as erlotinib or gefitinib for EGFR-mutated lung cancer or crizotinib for ALK-translocated lung cancer. These successes have taught us that lung cancer is not just one disease, but a multitude of different diseases, best defined by the specific tumor genetic changes that are driving tumor growth and that can serve as targets for therapy. At Massachusetts General Hospital, we have been performing tumor genetic testing via SNapShot, a panel of known oncogenic mutations, since 2009. We have found that approximately 40% of our patients do not have an identifiable mutation from the panel of known mutations. For these patients, identifying what tumor genetic changes are driving their cancer will be critical to be able to develop effective targeted therapy. This research therefore is focused on those patients who did not have an identifiable tumor mutation, with the hope that we can discover new targets for effective therapy. We plan to do this by performing whole exome sequencing, i.e. sequencing of the whole expressed portion of the tumor genome, on the tumor tissues of patients who did not have any identifiable tumor mutations. We are also screening these tumors for chromosomal rearrangements involving tyrosine kinases. With this two-pronged approach, we hope to identify novel tumor-related genetic changes that will spur the next series of targeted therapies for lung cancer.