Progress Update

Lung cancer has many forms, depending on which particular gene functions incorrectly. Our moon shot’s GEMINI project is on a mission to find these cancer-driving mutations for every subset of lung cancer patients — even those seen in only 1 or 2 percent of lung cancers. Using the latest technologies for tumor profiling, the team is finding targets and then identifying a drug that shuts down each one. One of our recent discoveries, made possible through private philanthropy and federal funding, focuses on a trio of lung cancer subsets characterized by mutations in a gene called KRAS. These findings have led to MD Anderson’s participation in a national research collaboration propelled by major funding from the Stand Up to Cancer organization.

Other lifesaving research involves combining targeted treatments and immunotherapies that hinder DNA repair mechanisms in cancer cells damaged by treatments. We’re using this approach in our studies of small cell lung cancer. While uncommon among lung cancers (accounting for fewer than 15%), small cell malignancies are diagnosed in more than 33,000 people in the U.S. alone each year.

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Progress Update

Finding answers in therapies for other cancers

As the Lung Cancer Moon Shot aims to find drugs that target every cancer-driving molecular aberration, using agents already approved for other cancers may significantly speed the process. For example, we’ve identified two existing drugs that show striking results in preclinical studies of non-small cell lung cancers (NSLC) with mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor Exon 20. To date, there has been no drug effective against this rare cancer subtype which strikes about 3,400 patients annually. The moon shot team is working with drug companies to move these findings to patients via clinical trials.

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Research Projects
Lung Cancer Moon Shot Leaders; (left to right): Stephen Swisher, M.D., Head, Division of Surgery; John Heymach, M.D., Ph.D., Chair, Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology

To help end lung cancer, we’re working to find new targeted treatments, including immunotherapies that unleash the immune system against cancer, and combination therapies.

We’re also combining biomarkers and CT imaging to improve lung cancer screening and find lung cancer earlier to improve prognosis. We’re using new strategies to help people stop smoking — lung cancer’s top cause — and prevent kids from starting. And we’re developing MD Anderson’s Oncology Expert Advisor™ (OEA™) system. Lung moon shot leaders are collaborating with IBM Watson to develop this clinical tool, which aims to improve patient care in communities worldwide by providing access to MD Anderson knowledge and expertise.

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MD Anderson and the Moon Shots Program
Making Cancer History®

New knowledge and progress-enabling technologies make this the time to reduce cancer deaths. MD Anderson's comprehensive Moon Shots Program capitalizes on these novel resources as it builds on a 70-plus-year history of renowned expertise, lifesaving innovation and global impact.

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Urgent Need

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths — yet research dollars for lung cancer lag sorely behind money dedicated to cancers that claim far fewer lives. Help fund research with your gift.

Story of Hope

Reba Kennedy counts her blessings years after complicated surgery on a late-stage tumor others considered inoperable. Read Reba’s story.

Reba Kennedy, patient, survivor, lung cancer
Lung Cancer

More than 28,000 people who’ve never smoked die of lung cancer each year. If we consider only the 15% of lung cancers diagnosed in never-smokers as a separate disease, it would be the sixth-leading cause of U.S. cancer deaths.

Research Update

Most lung cancers are detected too late to be curable. Sam Hanash, M.D., Ph.D., aims to change this through a simple, lifesaving blood test. Learn about his early-detection mission and landmark clinical trial.