Fighting Lung Cancer in the Lab
David R. Jones, M.D., Associate Professor of Surgery and Chief of General Thoracic Surgery
Each year, lung cancer kills more than 170,000 Americans. Despite significant treatment advances in other cancers, the five-year survival rate for lung cancer remains a dismal 15 percent. David R. Jones, M.D., chief of thoracic surgery and leader of U.Va. Cancer Center’s Thoracic Oncology Program, is committed to changing that.
Dr. Jones, who also holds the George R. Minor Professorship in General Thoracic Surgery, and his colleagues have established U.Va. as a national leader in clinical trials for lung cancer. Since most lung cancers are resistant to chemotherapy, he is looking at why this resistance occurs. His team has identified a protein abundant in lung cancer cells that significantly enhances chemoresistance in lung cancer. Research in his laboratory has demonstrated that inhibiting this protein dramatically increases the sensitivity of lung cancer cells to chemotherapy.
Dr. Jones recently opened a Phase I clinical trial, available only at U.Va., using two molecularly targeted drugs for patients with lung cancer. He is also working to discover why lung cancers tend to metastasize, or spread, more than many other cancers. His team has identified a protein that suppresses the spread of cancer—a protein that is lost early in the development of lung cancer. The hope is that by restoring normal levels of this protein to lung cancer cells, the chance of patients developing metastatic disease should decrease.
“Private support helps us bridge the gaps between federal grants and keeps the work moving to translate our findings in the lab into novel therapies for patients,” explained Dr. Jones. “This is critical for the thousands of people who face a diagnosis of lung cancer each year.”