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Lung, Head & Neck Cancer Program

Lung, head and neck cancer are the leading cause of cancer death and the most psychologically distressing cancer, respectively; both are largely tobacco induced. The Lung, Head and Neck Cancer (LHN) Program moves basic science findings to clinical practice, exemplified by the discovery of predictive biomarkers to guide therapeutic strategies, early detection and prevention advances and the use of genetic models of cancer to understand the biology of these malignancies.

Our researchers are interested in smoking cessation, biomarkers and early detection, epithelial carcinogenesis, tumor genetics and biology, chemoprevention, and therapy.

Scientific Goal:

Our goal in the Lung, Head and Neck (LHN) Program is to translate fundamental scientific research discoveries into preventive and therapeutic interventions and thereby decrease the incidence and mortality of lung, head and neck cancer.

Focus Groups:

  1. Risk Biomarkers, Early Detection and Prevention - Our members exploit molecular epidemiology as a powerful tool to identify risk biomarkers for lung and HNC, coupling these techniques to high risk cohorts and comprehensively annotated clinical specimens. Genetically engineered mouse models (GEMMs) are being developed of lung and HNC to identify biomarkers for early detection and targets for prevention.
  2. Tumor Genetics and Biology - Our members are developing direct patient tumor xenograft models (DPTXMs) of lung and HNC. Both models and their derived cell lines, together with well characterized patient samples, provide valuable resources for applying high throughput analyses, cross-species comparison, and in depth molecular and biochemical analyses to understand tumor genetics and cancer biology specific to the lung, and head and neck tissue.
  3. Experimental Therapeutics - Our program extends and augments experimental therapeutics from conventional xenograft testing to state-of-the-art models to better predict therapeutic efficacy. We utilize GEMMs that mimic spontaneous tumor formation through somatic mutations in the setting of an intact immune system and natural stromal microenvironment and are continuing to refine the use of DPTXMs in which individual patient tumors are tested for targeted therapies within the background of heterogeneous genetic alterations, followed by real-time selection of therapy for patients. These cutting edge models and approaches are anticipated to significantly increase the rate and success of investigator initiated clinical trials of personalized targeted therapy, allow further understanding of the molecular mechanisms of targeted drug effects and drug-induced resistance, and thereby lead to sustained development of novel therapeutic strategies.

Program Activities:

To achieve our goals, we encourage productive interactions between our basic science members, translational scientists, population and clinical scientists. To build capacity and develop our investigators, we established the following activities:

  • Career Development Grant Program
  • Pilot Project Grants Program
  • Monthly Seminar Series