Lung cancer is the most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. This human toll is not reflected, however, in the research dollars available to study the disease. About $1,829 in research dollars is spent per lung cancer death, compared to $23,474 for breast cancer and $14,369 for prostate cancer. Advances against all types of cancer are inextricably tied to the amount of funds available to study them. Cancer research saves lives.
Despite funding obstacles, the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center team of investigators in Baltimore is making unprecedented progress against the disease. The opportunity to make real gains against lung cancer has never been greater. The convergence of technology, such as next generation cancer gene sequencing, with brilliant scientific minds has brought us to a point where we can begin to alter the course of lung cancer in ways we could only imagine a decade ago. See our Groundbreaking Research section (insert hyperlink) to read about some of our exciting work.
The Kimmel Cancer Center is an undisputed leader in translational research—transferring basic science discoveries to the bedside in the form of cancer medicine. As a result, we are uniquely positioned to make revolutionary advances against lung cancer. With pioneering discoveries in cancer genetics (mutations to the DNA) and epigenetics (non-mutational alterations to DNA), we can begin to predict who will get lung cancer, personalize treatments to the unique molecular “fingerprint” of each cancer, and potentially eradicate them before patients even know they have them.
Young Scientists – the Future of Lung Cancer Discovery
Young investigators and clinicians represent the future of cancer research and treatment. They are members of the laboratory and clinical teams who are making revolutionary strides against lung cancer. Without their contribution, discovery stagnates and progress ends.
For those just starting out, competing for grants against established researchers is difficult. Seed funding is, therefore, vital to the early research of new investigators and clinician-scientists. With donor support to get them started, young investigators are able to establish a body of research and later successfully compete for grants. Many go on to earn millions more to continue their projects.
The work of Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center young investigators and clinician-scientists in the Upper Aerodigestive Cancer Program represents some of the most novel and innovative ideas in lung cancer research today. Without donor support, however, their promise may never be realized.
- Christine H. Chung, M.D., was selected in a national search to lead the Kimmel Cancer Center’s research in head and neck cancer. Her current work is focused on targeted therapies using EGFR inhibitors. Non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of lung cancer, has been associated with DNA changes in the EGFR gene, a gene that normally controls cell growth.
- Russell Hales, M.D., is a radiation oncologist who is helping to develop a thoracic cancer multidisciplinary clinic and Lung Cancer Center of Excellence at the Bayview campus of the Kimmel Cancer Center. In the laboratory, he is exploring the hedgehog cancer gene pathway in an effort to improve the response of lung cancers to radiation treatment. He also is evaluating new technologies that could improve lung cancer radiation therapy, such as 4D MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), that more accurately tracks tumor motion with breathing and helps ensure that radiation is hitting its intended target.
- Christine Hann, M.D., Ph.D., is developing novel therapeutics for lung cancer, particularly small cell lung cancer, the most lethal type of the disease. She is studying small molecules that block the BLC2 gene and, as a result, appear to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy for small cell lung cancer. Her work has been recognized with the American Society of Oncology Young Investigator Award and Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute Young Clinician-Scientist Award.
- Ronan Kelly, M.D., was recruited from the National Cancer Institute, where he had directed a number of innovative investigator-initiated clinical trials for thoracic cancers. Dr. Kelly, who served as medical director of Roche Pharmaceuticals in Ireland, is experienced in drug discovery. At the Kimmel Cancer Center, he will continue his research in lung cancer.
Promise & Progress
Urgency is something lung cancer patients and our researchers and clinicians have in common. Our scientists understand the nature of this disease and the importance of expediency in translating what we learn about lung cancer to benefit patients. Cancer has a paradoxical relationship with time. At once, we long for it to stand still and set a record pace. We know that lung cancer can be a deadly disease, so we long for time to move slowly. On the other hand, we understand that discoveries that lead to prevention strategies, better treatments, and cures cannot come quickly enough.
There has never been a more exciting time in lung cancer research. Elusive cellular and molecular targets have been identified. What is most exciting, however, is the promise, for the first time, to dramatically improve the outcomes of patients. We have the team of clinicians and scientists who can turn the promise of discovery into progress against lung cancer. We have the expertise, the opportunity and the resolve to redefine the history of lung cancer.
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