Lung Cancer Research Projects
MOON SHOTS PROGRAM
Lung Cancer Priority Projects
Our research projects address the crucial issues facing lung cancer patients by focusing our largest efforts on the approaches that have near‐term measurable success. Research efforts of the Lung Cancer Moon Shot® are aimed at enhancing our understanding of the molecular and genomic signatures of the disease and deploying treatment, detection and prevention strategies to end lung cancer.
Standard of care practices for NSCLC include adjuvant chemotherapy for early-state cancer, chemotherapy plus radiation for treatment of locally-advanced disease, and chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy combinations for metastatic NSCLC. At best, these treatment strategies benefit only 50% of patients with NSCLC. The goal of our Genomic Marker-Guided Therapy Initiative (GEMINI) project is to increase the cure rate for patients with any stage of NSCLC. We're also using this initiative to increase treatment options for patients with SCLC. These goals are supported by the GEMINI database, which has collected detailed molecular information on over 4,000 lung cancer patients.
The immunotherapy nivolumab has a profound effect on metastatic NSCLC, but some patients develop resistance to the treatment while others don’t benefit from it at all. Our Moon Shot® experts aim to expand the benefits of immunotherapy to all patients by combining nivolumab with targeted drugs. Our Immunogenic Profiling Protocol in NSCLC (ICON) project, is defining the baseline immune profile of NSCLC tumors after surgery, which will improve the precision of our immunotherapy trials.
In addition to combining immunotherapy with targeted therapy, our Moon Shot team is collaborating with both the Immunotherapy platform within the Moon Shots Program® and pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb to evaluate new ways to leverage immunotherapy to treat early- and advanced-stage lung cancer. In addition to nivolumab, ipilimumab (Yervoy) will be assessed for its effectiveness when given alone, in combination with nivolumab, or in addition to traditional treatment options such as radiation or surgery. By providing information about patients’ baseline immune response prior to immunotherapy treatment, the immune profiling done by the ICON project will be critical to determine whether any of these treatment combinations benefit patient outcomes beyond that of traditional treatment strategies.
Previously, patients with KRAS-driven NSCLC did not have targeted therapy treatment options. Studies within GEMINI identified that three subtypes of NSCLC exist and are caused by distinct KRAS mutations, each of which are susceptible to different therapeutics. Uncovering the complexity of KRAS-driven tumors has guided our team to initiate clinical trials aimed at identifying the targeted therapies that are most effective for each of the subtypes.
To catch lung cancer earlier, our experts are developing a blood-based screening method that detects signatures specific to lung cancer. To find the most universal and effective tumor-specific signatures, MD Anderson is leading a first-of-its-kind study to collect and analyze blood samples from 10,000 heavy smokers in the U.S. The enormous amount of patient profiling data that will result from this study will be used to generate a simple, low-cost and practice-changing blood test that can detect the presence of early-stage lung cancer.
Our Moon Shot experts are also working to improve algorithms for interpreting CT scans and are investigating ultra-low dose CT screening methods. These advancements in CT scanning will be accomplished through collaborations with imaging and diagnostic experts and industry partners.
By tailoring age-appropriate prevention efforts, developing algorithms to personalize treatment and identifying the most effective pharmacological and behavioral approaches, our Moon Shot team is striving to change clinical practice in smoking prevention and cessation.
Our youth prevention effort, ASPIRE, is an evidence-based, online tobacco curriculum for adolescents. The efforts of this program extend offline, too, by connecting Houston clinics to local high school students and fostering a peer mentor program to connect middle school and high school students. Our team is also educating adolescents about the dangers of second and third-hand smoke through the Children Against Nicotine and Tobacco (CHANT) project.
To help adults quit smoking, our Moon Shot team is improving our cessation approaches and personalizing nicotine addiction treatment. To better assess patient response during cessation treatment, two neurobiological studies are examining the pharmacological and behavioral signatures of reward sensitivity. For individuals that don’t quit after either of two pharmacological smoking-cessation treatments, another trial employs algorithms to predict the next best treatment option for each patient.