Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation Announces Recipients of the Second Annual Young Innovators Team Award for Lung Cancer Research

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Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation Announces Recipients of the Second Annual Young Innovators Team Award for Lung Cancer Research
$500,000 to fund collaborative teams of young, multidisciplinary scientists

SAN CARLOS, Calif. (July 7, 2016) — The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF) and the Van Auken Private Foundation (VAPF) announced the recipients of the second annual ALCF-VAPF Young Innovators Team Award (YITA) today. This year, ALCF-VAPF awarded $500,000 to a team of researchers exploring the causes of chemotherapy resistant small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) and identifying new inhibitors targeting this disease.

“YITA supports researchers with the courage to look beyond current methodologies of treating lung cancer to extend the lives of patients,” said Bonnie J. Addario, a 12-year stage 3B lung cancer survivor and ALCF founder. “Lung cancer takes more lives than colorectal, breast and prostate cancers combined, accounting for more than 27 percent of all cancer-related deaths. The lack of institutional research funding for lung cancer creates a disincentive for talented young scientists and doctors to pursue research in this area, further reducing the chances of finding a cure. Through this partnership and joint award, we hope to change those numbers.”

Small-cell lung cancer leads to approximately 31,000 deaths in the United States each year and despite an impressive initial response to chemotherapy, SCLC rapidly becomes resistant to this treatment. Systemic treatments for SCLC, like chemotherapy, have not improved in decades and currently no approved targeted therapies exist. This makes it even more imperative to identify better targets for small cell lung cancer, and inhibit these for durable clinical outcomes.

The winning proposal by Drs. David MacPherson (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center) and John Poirier (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center /Cornell University) titled Using GEMM and PDX Models to Investigate EZH2 as a Therapeutic Target in Small Cell Lung Cancer, will investigate a novel, targeted approach to treating small cell lung cancer. This proposal emerged as the winner in a rigorous, multilevel peer review process that involved in-person presentations to the ALCF Scientific Review Committee, composed of global lung cancer key opinion leaders.

“We are grateful to ALCF and VAPF for their commitment to investing research dollars to improve treatments for lung cancer, especially in areas that are often overlooked,” said Dr. MacPherson. “Research into small cell lung cancer has been under supported for too long. This award has allowed two labs with expertise in different but highly complementary model systems to work together for the first time. This is a highly synergistic, collaborative effort enabled by ALCF-VAPF support that has the potential to benefit a substantial proportion of SCLC patients.”

SCLC is defined by the universal loss of two genes: RB1 and TP53. Because these genes are lost or damaged, there is no way to make a medicine that specifically targets them. However, there is emerging evidence suggesting that the loss of these two genes introduces a new vulnerability: dependence on a third gene called Enhancer of Zeste 2 (EZH2). Unlike RB1 and TP53, EZH2 expression and activity are increased in SCLC, providing something for clinicians to target.

There are currently several drugs targeting EZH2 in preclinical and early phase clinical trials in other diseases. The proposal by Drs. MacPherson and Poirier uses two mouse models to test new medicines targeting EZH2 in small cell lung cancer: patient derived xenograft models (PDX), which are human SCLC tumors grown in mice, and genetically engineered mouse models (GEMMs), which spontaneously develop murine SCLC in the lungs. Through these studies, this team of young innovators aims to identify the best inhibitors of EZH2 for small cell lung cancer and define the patient subset for which this therapy should be optimally directed.

“There have been no new therapies approved for small cell lung cancer in the past three decades, and not much has changed in patient care in these 30 years. Preliminary data presented by Drs. MacPherson and Poirier suggest the possibility of impacting not only chemo-naïve patients, but also chemo-resistant small cell lung cancer patients, providing hope for better clinical outcomes for this patient population,” said Guneet Walia, Ph.D., ALCF senior director of research and medical affairs.

The Young Innovator Team Awards were instituted by ALCF in 2014 to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and foster leadership skills among young innovators, instilling confidence in them to drive breakthrough lung cancer research under a collaborative, cross-institutional paradigm. For its YITA grants, ALCF aims to fund research that is:

  • Out-of-the-box – high-risk, high-impact research that will typically not be selected for federal funding, is creative and has potential for near-term benefit to lung cancer patients
  • Collaborative – research that fosters collaboration among young researchers who haven’t worked together in the past, preferably across-institutions
  • Translational – research with outcomes that can be quickly moved from the lab to the clinic, or from the bench to bedside
  • Multidisciplinary – projects that involve multiple academic disciplines/specializations in their approach to solve a problem in the field of lung cancer.

To learn more about previous recipients of this prestigious funding, click here. The request for applications (RFA) for the next round of the YITA grants will be announced at www.lungcancerfoundation.org/grants in August 2016.

About the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation
The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF) is one of the largest philanthropies (patient-founded, patient-focused and patient-driven) devoted exclusively to eradicating Lung Cancer through research, early detection, education and treatment. The Foundation’s goal is to work with a diverse group of physicians, organizations, industry partners, individuals, patients, survivors, and their families to identify solutions and make timely and meaningful change and turn lung cancer into a chronically managed disease by 2023. The ALCF was established March 1, 2006 as a 501c(3) non-profit organization and has raised nearly$30 million for lung cancer research and related programs.

For those interested in learning more about ALCF, visit www.lungcancerfoundation.org and follow its activities on Twitter and Facebook.

About the Van Auken Private Foundation
The Van Auken Private Foundation was established on April 17, 2008 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Its purpose is to make contributions, grants and provide assistance to other tax-exempt charitable organizations, in arts, science, medicine, education and worthy social causes.