book cover from the Tobacco Atlas, Sixth Edition

The 6th edition of the Tobacco Atlas book and companion website was produced by the American Cancer Society and Vital Strategies.

Check out our slideshow on 12 Key Findings to learn more about the physical, social, and economic harms of tobacco and about evidence-based solutions to advance toward a tobacco-free world.

Research and Training Grants in Lung Cancer

The American Cancer Society funds scientists and medical professionals who research cancer or train at medical schools, universities, research institutes, and hospitals throughout the United States. We use a rigorous and independent peer review process to select the most innovative research projects to fund.

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Total Lung Cancer Grants in Effect as of August 1, 2019

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Total Lung Cancer Grant Funding in Effect as of August 1, 2019

Spotlight on Lung Cancer Grantees

Here are some examples of the research areas and scientists the American Cancer Society funds. These lung cancer investigators are working to find answers that will save more lives and improve the quality of life for patients and their families. 

New Smartphone App Uses Positive Psychology to Help Non-Daily Smokers Quit

Grantee: Bettina Hoeppner, PhD
Institution: Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston
Area of Focus: Cancer Control and Prevention: Psychosocial and Behavioral Research
Term: 7/1/2017 to 6/30/2021

The Challenge: About 22% of adults who smoke don’t do it every day. They may not be dependent on nicotine, they still have a high chance of developing cancer. Many non-daily smokers are motivated to quit but fail when they try. One problem is that current aids to stop smoking aren’t helpful to them. That’s because those aids are based on nicotine dependence. Plus, these smokers typically don’t welcome counseling or medication. And the number of non-daily smokers is rising. Therefore, treatments that support the unique characteristics of non-daily smokers are needed. 

The Research: Hoeppner is developing a smartphone app to help non-daily smokers quit. This app acts as a behavioral, in-the-pocket coach. The app is built to deliver personalized behavioral counseling. It will help each user by:

  • Assessing their readiness to change and guiding them on how to become ready as necessary
  • Using a positive psychology approach that heightens app users’ awareness of positive experiences in their lives and that encourages them to acknowledge and savor the experiences. The approach also guides users to increase their awareness of people being kind to others and increasing the times they act kindly.
  • Offering customized, interactive tools that trigger motivational messages, reminders based on their reasons for quitting, information about the benefits of quitting, just-in-time support during times they’ve identified as challenging, and tips about how to combat sabotaging thoughts
  • Offering a button to click to time-stamp cigarette use to help them self-monitor their progress

Hoeppner’s team will develop and test the app with non-daily smokers. If the app works well, it will be available to the public for free. 

The Goal and Long-term Possibilities: The positive psychology exercises in the app have the potential to enhance or maintain happiness, which may help non-daily smokers to feel more confident, have less desire to smoke, and be less defensive about smoking-related health information. Together, these changes may make them less resistant to treatment.

Attacking Both Cancer and Noncancer Cells in Lung Tumors May Improve Treatment

Grantee: James Kim, MD, PhD
Institution: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas
Area of Focus: Tumor Biology and Genomics
Term: 7/1/2016 to 6/30/2020

The Challenge: Most targeted therapies aim directly at the cancer cells in a tumor. But a tumor is also made of inflammatory cells, blood vessels, and connective tissue. All these components, called the stroma, aren’t cancerous. But they can help the tumor grow and thrive.

The Research: With support from a grant from the American Cancer Society, Kim and his research team are studying mice with lung cancer. They’re focused on the signals and interactions between cancer and noncancer cells. Their goal is to develop and test new treatments that target both types of cells in lung tumors.

The Goal and Long-Term Possibilities: This is the first step in developing new drugs for humans that could help people with lung cancer live longer and with a better quality of life. 

Developing More Effective Targeted Therapies for EGFR Mutant Lung Cancers

Grantee: Pasi A. Jänne, MD, PhD
Institution: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston
Area of Focus: Cancer Drug Discovery
Term: 7/1/2017 to 6/30/2022

The Challenge: Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutant lung cancer is hard to treat. Targeted therapies are more effective than traditional chemotherapy. These drugs attack specific aspects of cancer cells that make them different from normal cells.

There’s a problem within just months after targeted treatment starts, though. The drugs stop working in almost all patients with lung cancer cells have mutant EGFR. That means the patients develop drug resistance.

The Research: With his grant from the American Cancer Society, Jänne will develop and evaluate combination therapies to extend the lives of people with an EGFR mutant lung cancer. Then he plans to conduct preclinical studies in mice, and he’ll lead clinical trials with lung cancer patients.

The Goal and Long-term Possibilities: Jänne hopes this research will inform treatments for other lung cancer subtypes in addition to EGFR mutant ones. He believes this work could improve the outcome for many lung cancer patients.

Assessing Health Before and After Treatment for Lung Cancer

Grantee: Duc Ha, MD
Institution: The Regents of the University of California, San Diego
Area of Focus: Cancer Control and Prevention: Psychosocial and Behavioral Research
Term: 7/1/2017 to 6/30/2020

The Challenge: People with lung cancer often have symptoms from smoking-related lung diseases, as well as from the cancer. Plus, they have negative side effects after the surgery to remove part or all of a lung.

The Research: Ha studies the health limitations of lung cancer patients. To understand a patient’s health before treatment, immediately after it, and 6-months after treatment, he uses:    

  • Exercise testing
  • Several standardized assessments that ask patients about how well they are doing

He’s specifically interested in studying how exercise training and rehabilitation, separately or together, might improve how well people do after treatment for lung cancer.

The Goal and Long-term Possibilities: Ha’s work may help characterize health problems due to lung cancer treatment and identify ways to predict which patients are most likely to have problems. Ultimately, his results may identify health issues that could be studied to improve the health and survivorship of those with lung cancer. 

Exploring Synthetic Tumor Suppression for Lung Cancer

Grantee: Jennifer Speth
Institution: The Regents of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor
Area of Focus: Tumor Biology and Genomics
Term: 7/1/2017 to 6/30/2019

The Challenge: Lung cancers almost always start in epithelial cells. They’re the cells that line the inside of the airways. In a healthy lung, epithelial cells communicate with immune cells called macrophages. Scientists think cancers start in epithelial cells partly because their communication with macrophages gets disrupted.

Recently, Speth and her lab team discovered a new type of communication in the lung. Macrophages send out a signal by releasing small “packages” (microvesicles) filled with a tumor suppressor called SOCS3. When the microvesicles releases SOCS3, epithelial cells pick up the signal that prevents inflammation in the lungs.

Speth’s early work shows that lung cancer cells “silence” macrophage communication. Cancer cells prevent macrophages from releasing microvesicles. This limits the inflammation-prevention signal fromSOCS3 to epithelial cells. So inflammation occurs. Chronic inflammation can increase the risk for cancer.  

The Research: With support from a grant from the American Cancer Society, Speth’s team will study mice with lung cancer. Their focus is to learn why this disruption in communication happens. They’ll also try using synthetic packages with SOCS3 to see if they keep tumors from forming or growing, or both.

Speth’s team will also study SOCS3 levels in tissue samples from lung cancer patients. 

The Goal and Long-Term Possibilities: Speth’s team wants to learn whether identifying a “silent” macrophage could help doctors diagnose cancer or be a target for a new drug.

Exploring Ways to Target the BRG1 Gene Mutation in Mice with Non-small-cell Lung Cancer

Grantee: Carla Concepcion, PhD
Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research in Cambridge
Area of Focus: Cancer Drug Discovery
Term: 7/1/2017 to 6/30/2020

The Challenge: Non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common cause of cancer-related death in the world. BRG1 is one of the genes that most frequently changes (mutates) and leads to this type of lung cancer. So far, though, there are no targeted therapies to treat cancer patients who have this mutation.

The Research: Concepcion is trying to make targeted therapies possible. She and her team study mice with NSCLC and mutations on the BRG1 gene to better understand the tumor’s biology. She also simultaneously screens many drugs to identify candidates to target BRG1-mutant cells.

The Goal and Long-term Possibilities: Concepcion’s research may inform the development of treatments to help those with NSCLC.  

Evaluating the PKA Communication Pathway in Mice as a Potential Target for New SCLC Drugs

Grantee: Garry Coles, PhD
Institution: Stanford University in California
Area of Focus: Tumor Biochemistry and Endocrinology
Term: 7/1/2017 to 6/30/2020

The Challenge: Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is the most aggressive and most fatal form of lung cancer. With current treatment options, about 90% of patients with SCLC don’t survive for 5 years after diagnosis.

Like healthy cells, cancer cells need to communicate with each other and with their environment to continue to grow and survive. Some evidence shows that one communication pathway, called PKA (protein kinase A) is active in cancer cells. It may be involved in a SCLC tumor’s growth, but its role in SCLC has never been studied.

The Research: Coles is doing some of the first studies of the PKA pathway in SCLC tumors. He’s exploring:

  • What makes the PKA signal start
  • Which stage in the development of SCLC PKA signaling is begins
  • Whether blocking that signal could be used to treat people with SCLC

His team's looking for potential drug markers after the PKA pathway.

The Goal and Long-term Possibilities: Coles’ goal is to use his findings about PKA to inform future treatments for SCLC. 

From Our Researchers

The American Cancer Society employs a staff of full-time researchers who relentlessly pursue the answers that help us better understand cancer, including lung cancer.

Lung Cancer Research Videos

Watch our videos to learn more about our lung cancer research.