LUNGevity announces its 2013 Research Awards

I received the information below in a news release email from LUNGevity today. It’s encouraging to see the research undertaken for lung cancer patients, especially research related to the KRAS mutation (for which few therapies currently exist), lung cancer resistant to radiation therapy, and acquired resistance to targeted therapies (like Tarceva).


LUNGevity is proud to announce our 2013 Research Awards!

New LUNGevity awards are enabling promising research into managing lung cancer treatment more effectively, as well as preventing the disease in high-risk populations.

Six exceptional researchers have received 2013 LUNGevity Lung Cancer Research Awards. They join a community of brilliant LUNGevity-funded scientists across the country who are working to help people with lung cancer live longer and better.


2013 Career Development Awards for Translational Research were made to the following researchers.

Timothy Burns, MD, PhD, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, is working on targeted therapy for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with mutations in a gene called KRAS, using a new class of drugs.

David Kozono, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will identify which genetic types of lung cancer are the most resistant to radiation, and which of these may be best treated with a combination of radiation and bortezomib, a drug already FDA-approved for another type of cancer.

Meredith Tennis, PhD, University of Colorado Denver, will identify biomarkers that signal whether a patient is likely to benefit from iloprost and pioglitazone, two drugs that have demonstrated promise in reducing NSCLC risk, and whether they work in a clinical trial setting.


2013 Targeted Therapeutics Awards for Translational Research were made to the following researchers.

Balazs Halmos, MD, Columbia University Medical Center, is working on a way to increase the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy that could also lead to personalized NSCLC treatments, especially for the third of all lung cancer patients with locally advanced lung cancer.

Lecia V. Sequist, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital, will develop models that explain how NSCLC patients can acquire drug resistance to targeted therapies after a period of initial successful treatment, leading to the development of new treatments to help patient overcome the drug resistance.

Frank J. Slack, PhD, Yale University, is studying the KRAS-variant, a recently discovered KRAS mutation found in over 20% of NSCLC patients, which has been shown to predict a patient’s response to cancer treatment. His research aims to confirm the role of the KRAS-variant to direct cancer therapy for lung cancer patients and as a potential future target for therapy.


The work of these talented researchers will help ensure continued progress in fighting lung cancer. Special thanks to Genentech and our other donors for their support of the LUNGevity Scientific Research Awards Program. Read more about these exciting projects. In addition to these awards, LUNGevity will announce funding for awards through its Early Detection Awards Program later this year. Please stay tuned!

Death and the Cost of Immortality

Western culture is obsessed with avoiding death. For many, it is a terrifying concept.

Yet death is a natural part of the cycle of life throughout the universe. When plants, animals, mountains, planets, solar systems, and galaxies die, their components are released and transition to become essential components of other lives. If stars had not completed their cycle and died violent deaths, the elements necessary for life elsewhere would not have been created.

Some today seek immortality through plastic surgery, elixirs, and cloning. Others imagine a future with cryogenic preservation, or uploads to new organic or inorganic bodies. All of these options consume significant resources. In most cases, the technology is (or would be) affordable only by the upper levels of society.

Speaking as one who is consuming more than my fair share of resources to survive cancer, I wonder whether I’m giving back more than I’m taking from Earth’s resource pool. I’m not afraid to transition to the next stage of existence, whatever it may be, but my autistic son isn’t ready for me to leave him yet.

If people wish to love well and experience life to the fullest by means of a healthy lifestyle, more power to them. However, when we start seeking to extend life with artificial means, I wonder if perhaps we’re being selfish. Might those resources be better applied towards ensuring good water, food, and health are available for present and future generations?

How Much Do CT Scans Increase the Risk of Cancer?

This is the title of a great article published today by Scientific American about risks of developing future cancers from CT scans. Since cancer patients get frequent CT scans, this subject comes up frequently among lung cancer survivors. I learned some key facts:

(1) Estimates of cancer risk have until recently been based on “cancer rates among the long-term survivors of the atomic bomb blasts in World War II,” a data set that doesn’t really mesh with the radiation exposure generated by CT scans. About a dozen studies worldwide are now looking at cancer rates in patients who’ve had CT scans.

(2) The amount of radiation exposure generated by a CT scan is not regulated by the FDA in the US. Some centers use higher levels of radiation than others. Last year the American Association of Physicists in Medicine published standards for CT procedures and doses. Also, as of 2012, facilities that accept Medicare Part B must be accredited by the American College of Radiology and follow their dosage guidelines if they want to get reimbursed.

(3) Radiologists Sarabjeet Singh and Mannudeep Kalra “discovered that they can diagnose certain abnormal growths in the lungs and perform routine chest exams with about 75 percent less radiation than usual.” Massachusetts General Hospital has adopted this approach, and the researchers are sharing their methods around the globe.

From now on, I’m going to be sure any facility that scans me has American College of Radiology accreditation, and I’ll ask if they’re aware of Singh and Kalra’s work.