Reseach We Fund

Upstage Lung Cancer is proud to have funded over $3 million in early detection lung cancer research. Research matters. It saves lives. We support diverse and exciting investigations that use the newest methods to develop tools to detect lung cancer at the earliest possible stage using by way of urine, blood, sputum and breath. By creating non-invasive and easily accessible means for early detection, the potential can increase dramatically to transform lung cancer from the #1 cancer killer to a chronic and manageable disease. Here are the projects:

Tyler Jacks, PhD
Tyler Jacks, PhD

2020-2021 Using organoids for the early detection of lung cancer

This grant was funded in part by LUNGevity

Tyler Jacks, PhD

Director, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT

The Jacks Lab is using lung organoids (miniaturized lungs that are grown in a dish from healthy cells) to discover new methods for the early detection of lung cancer via a blood or lung fluid test. Using organoids, the lab will transform the healthy cells through gene modification to become cancerous cells. Once this occurs, they have a sample of early stage cancerous cells that they can compare with healthy cells. Their goal is to identify proteins that are expressed and secreted only in the cancerous cell group and not the healthy cell group. The expression of these proteins could then serve as a biomarker which could be tested for in blood or lung fluids to provide early, non-invasive detection of lung cancer.

Sangeeta N. Bhatia, MD, PhD
Sangeeta N. Bhatia, MD, PhD

2019-2021 Early Detection

This grant was funded in part by Frontier Research Program, Koch Institute

Sangeeta N. Bhatia, MD, PhD

Koch Institute For Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, Cambridge, MA

Research in the Bhatia laboratory is dedicated to leveraging miniaturization tools from the world of engineering to improve human health. Using micro and nanotechnologies, also called “tiny technologies,” the lab aims to interface living and synthetic systems to improve medical diagnostics, as well as drug delivery, tissue regeneration, and disease modeling. In particular, Professor Bhatia is working to develop nanotechnology for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and to improve therapies for liver disease. Her multidisciplinary team has developed a broad range of impactful inventions, including various nanomaterials that can be used to detect, monitor, or treat cancer and other diseases. For example, nanosensors designed by Professor Bhatia and her team can detect and profile tumors — even at very early stages — and can be analyzed via a simple urine test. This technology may also yield insights into a tumor’s response to certain therapies. Additionally, the lab has created human microlivers, which model human drug metabolism, liver disease, and interaction with pathogens.

Nian Sun, PhD
Nian Sun, PhD

2019-2020 Hand-held Gas Sensor System for Biomarker for Early Detection

Nian Sun, PhD

Director, W.M. Keck Laboratory for Integrated Ferroics, Northeastern University

The Sun Lab is developing a new ultra-sensitive, highly specific hand-held gas sensor system for biomarker volatile organic compounds from exhaled breath for early screening of lung cancer. Lung cancer screening by CT scan is USPSTF recommended in a high-risk population, of which the implementation in rural areas has been challenging, and false positives have resulted in resection of benign nodules. An inexpensive and portable technology has the potential to increase screening rates and reduce procedures for false positives. Here we propose to develop novel gas sensors that are ultra-sensitive, highly selective, hand-held with low size, weight, power consumption and cost, which can sense biomarker volatile organic compounds in real time for early screening of lung cancer. This technology will be developed for diagnosis of lung cancer within a high-risk population defined by USPSTF guidelines within an established clinical lung screening program.

Edwin Yau, MD, PhD
Edwin Yau, MD, PhD

2018-2019 Early Detection: Lung Cancer Detection by CRISPR-based Detection of Circulating Tumor DNA

This grant was funded in part by LUNGevity

Edwin Yau, MD, PhD

Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

Currently, computed tomography (CT) is available as a tool for the early detection of lung cancer in high-risk individuals. Unfortunately, it has a high false-positive rate: less than 5% of people with nodules found through CT actually have lung cancer. Apart from the distress associated with false positives, individuals may have to undergo invasive procedures, such as a biopsy, to rule out lung cancer.

Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) is DNA released from dying cancer cells into the bloodstream. Individuals with early-stage lung cancer may have ctDNA in their blood, even when the cancer is localized. CRISPR-Cas technology is a novel DNA modifying tool that can be used to develop sensitive, specific, and economic ctDNA assays. Dr. Edwin Yau will develop a CRISPR-Cas-based blood test to detect ctDNA in the blood of individuals suspected of having lung cancer. While the immediate goal of the project is to evaluate this blood test in individuals who have already undergone a CT scan, the ultimate goal of the project is to develop a blood test for screening all individuals.

Tony Addario
Tony Addario

2018-2019 Epidemiology of Young Lung Cancer

This grant was funded in part by Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation

Tony Addario

Chair and CEO of ALCMI

Epidemiology is the method used to find the causes of health outcomes and diseases in populations. Although we have new information about the genomics of lung cancer in young people (YLC) from our Genomics of Young Lung Cancer study, the actual causes of YLC remain unknown.

The goal of the Epidemiology of Young Lung Cancer Study (EoYLC) is to identify lifestyle, environmental, and family/genetic risk factors associated with the development of YLC and specific cancer-driving mutations. The innovation of EoYLC study is that it is the first of its kind to investigate why certain young people develop lung cancer. It is a necessary step toward understanding, diagnosing, and easing the burden of this devastating disease among young people.

Geoffrey Oxnard, MD
Geoffrey Oxnard, MD

2017-2018 Noninvasive Detection of Plasma Cell Free DNA Circulating in the Blood

Geoffrey Oxnard, MD

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute / Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Dr. Oxnard’s research studies noninvasive detection of plasma cell free DNA circulating in the blood, as a tool for detecting cancer-derived mutations. This transformative technology offers an opportunity to find targetable mutations, monitor for drug resistance, and even to detect subclinical metastatic disease. With a multi-pronged research approach, Dr. Oxnard aims to integrate plasma genotyping lung cancer care as a new diagnostic modality.

Barbara J. Gitlitz, MD
Barbara J. Gitlitz, MD

2014-2018 Genomics of Young Lung Cancer Study

This grant was funded in part by Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation

Barbara J. Gitlitz, MD

University Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

Geoffrey R. Oxnard, MD

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

ALCMI is the sister organization of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF) and brings together some of the finest researchers in lung cancer throughout the world. As a result of this collaborative “think tank,” a project was directed to investigate the genomic profiles of young people, under age 40, with lung cancer.

Lida Hariri, MD, PhD
Lida Hariri, MD, PhD

2016-2018 Early Detection: Optical Imaging for Early Lung Cancer Diagnosis

This grant was funded in part by LUNGevity

Lida Hariri, MD, PhD

Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard University, Boston, MA

A tissue biopsy is often required to make a definitive diagnosis of lung cancer. However, because of small size and inadequate biopsy yield, early-stage lung cancer is often difficult to diagnose. Dr. Hariri is using a novel imaging technique called optical coherence tomography (OCT) to develop tools to guide tissue biopsy sampling to improve tissue yield. These tools will also provide additional diagnostic information.

Vadim Backman, PhD
Vadim Backman, PhD

2015-2016 Early Detection: Lung screening via biophotonic analysis of nanoarchitecture of buccal cells

This grant was funded in part by LUNGevity

Vadim Backman, PhD

Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Cells in the respiratory tract are usually stacked in an orderly fashion. As lung cancer develops, the cells get “un-stacked” and their shapes change, giving them the ability to grow and spread to other parts of the body. Dr. Vadim Backman from Northwestern University is utilizing a new technology called Partial Wave Spectroscopy for seeing those cells. With the Upstage Lung Cancer/ LUNGevity Early Detection Award, he will check how cells taken from the cheeks of stage I lung cancer patients reflect these early changes with the ultimate goal of using partial wave spectroscopy technology for early detection of lung cancer.

Alejandro Sweet-Cordero, MD
Alejandro Sweet-Cordero, MD

2014-2015 Targeted Therapies: Protein Engineering to Target Tumor-Stroma Interactions in NSCLC

This grant was funded in part by LUNGevity

Alejandro Sweet-Cordero, MD

Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Jennifer Cochran, PhD

Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Lung cancer cells depend on continuous cross-talk with other cells around them. Drs. Sweet-Cordero and Cochran will use decoy proteins to intercept and disable this essential molecular communications between the tumor and its environment, thereby destroying the cancer.

Feng Jiang, MD, PhD
Feng Jiang, MD, PhD

2013-2015 Early Detection: Sputum Biomarkers for the Early Detection of Lung Cancer

This grant was funded in part by LUNGevity

Feng Jiang, MD, PhD

University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD

Sanford Stass, MD

University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD

Dr. Jiang is identifying sputum biomarkers that could improve the process of detecting early-stage lung cancer by contributing to development of a non-invasive test that complements low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans and improves the accuracy of diagnosis.

Rebecca Heist, MD, MPH
Rebecca Heist, MD, MPH

2011-2013 Targeted Therapies: Identifying Tumor Genomic Changes In Lung Cancers

This grant was funded in part by LUNGevity

Rebecca Heist, MD, MPH

Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

Anthony Iafrate, MD

Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

William Pao, MD, PhD

Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

The treatment of lung cancer has been revolutionized by the discovery of specific targeted therapies. These successes have taught us that lung cancer is actually a multitude of different diseases, best defined by the specific tumor genetic changes. The project goal is to discover new targets that are critical for developing effective therapies to directly target those changes. Results of this two-year project show great promise in validating newly identified mutations for target.

CAUSE OF DEATH: Lung Cancer

Nate King Cole

Nat King Cole

Singer/Songwriter, Pianist

Mar 17, 1919 - Feb 15, 1965
Suzanne Pleshette

Suzanne Pleshette

Film and Theatre Actress

Jan 31, 1937 - Jan 19, 2008
Paul Newman

Paul Newman

Actor, Director, Entrepreneur

Jan 26, 1925 - Sept 26, 2008
Vincent Price

Vincent Price

Actor, Art Collector and Consultant

May 27, 1911 - Oct 25, 1993
Beverly Sills

Beverly Sills

Soprano Opera Singer

May 25, 1929 - July 2, 2007