BU researcher awarded $4.6 million U2C grant to develop innovative lung cancer biomarkers

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Lung cancer screening by chest computed tomography (CT) can detect lung cancer earlier and make the disease less deadly; but even among nodules that are at intermediate risk, only a small minority are cancerous.

Marc Lenburg, PhD, professor of medicine in the Section of Computational Medicine at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, aims to address this issue. He has been awarded a five-year, $4.6 million U2C grant from the National Institutes of Health.

His objective is to develop and validate innovative biomarkers from nasal swabs, blood and advanced imaging analysis for determining which intermediate risk lung nodules detected via screening or as part of routine clinical care, are lung cancers. "This would expedite cancer treatment while minimizing invasive tests and clinical uncertainty in patients with non-cancerous nodules," says Lenburg.

The project continues a collaboration over more than 10-years between investigators at Boston University, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and Lahey Health and is being jointly led by Lenburg, Boston University's Jennifer E. Beane-Ebel, PhD, along with Steven Dubinett, MD and William Hsu, PhD from UCLA.

The researchers will collaborate with Veracyte, (NASDAQ:VCYT) and LungLife Al, (LON:LLAI), two molecular diagnostics companies, to refine and standardize these biomarkers so that useful biomarkers can quickly be put to use clinically. The project extends previous genomics research at BUSM that identified a lung-cancer associated airway field of injury that can be used for lung cancer detection.

Lenburg is part of a research group including Beane and BUSM's Avrum Spira, MD, MSc who are renowned in the field of genomic technology and translational bioinformatics. Their primary research interest is the molecular pathogenesis of tobacco-related diseases such as lung cancer using genomic technologies to both identify new therapeutic targets and biomarkers for guiding clinical management. Some of this work is already benefiting patients: a nasal swab genomic test for lung cancer that the group helped develop is currently being used in a large, prospective clinical utility study to demonstrate its ability to impact clinicians' management of patients with lung nodules found on CT scans.

This new research is part of the NCI's Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) which was established in 2000 to transform the detection of early-stage cancer in part by promoting both innovative and rigorous approaches for biomarker discovery and validation. Since then, the EDRN has grown to more than 300 investigators. Lenburg's research has been supported by the EDRN since 2010.


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