Of all cancers, lung has the most far-reaching impact on our population. It is the leading cause of cancer death, with 160,000 lung cancer patients in the U.S. alone losing their battle every year.

This is why lung cancer is part of MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program. We have the chance to make a major impact on lung cancer deaths in a short time through efforts in prevention, early detection and treatments that offer new hope for patients with advanced lung cancer.

Advances in genetic mapping, molecular profiling and diagnostic imaging have allowed MD Anderson researchers to achieve major advances in lung cancer screening and treatment just in the last three to four years. In addition, efforts to prevent cancer with personalized risk-reduction strategies and educational outreach are reaching a wider audience.

We have the tools in our hands to make lung cancer history—we just need your help to make it a reality.

The battle against lung cancer is being fought on three fronts: prevention, early detection, and treatment of advanced disease.


Lung Cancer Prevention

Nearly 80% of lung cancers are caused by smoking. Although anti-smoking campaigns have been around for decades, many people need personalized support and intervention to successfully stop smoking or to avoid it in the first place. The Lung Cancer Moon Shot has several initiatives already underway to help prevent lung cancer caused by smoking:

  • Personalized tobacco cessation programs based on newly developed biomarkers and genetic profiling that pinpoint which treatments will be most effective for each individual patient.
  • Social media, mobile devices and web-based tools used in our ASPIRE program to reach youths ages 10-18, when they are most likely to take up smoking.
  • Automatic referrals to our successful Tobacco Treatment Program for all patients who smoke. MD Anderson has doubled referrals to the program since the moon shot was announced in September 2012.

Early Detection

Diagnosing lung cancer early is key to increasing cure rates. MD Anderson played an important role in the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial (NLST), which found that lung cancer deaths could be reduced by 20% if certain smokers were screened with a low-dose CT scan.

Now that lung screening is widely-available, the next step is to improve the screening process by minimizing false positive results and use biomarkers to determine which high-risk populations may benefit from lung screening. Our ultimate goal is to have a simple blood test to determine lung cancer risk.

Patients with Advanced Cancer

Treatment options for patients with advanced lung cancer have changed little in the last 20 years. MD Anderson intends to shift that paradigm with several approaches:

  • The GEMINI Project will employ the newest technologies to molecularly profile lung cancers. Instead of carpet-bombing advanced lung cancer with cytotoxic, non-specific chemotherapies, we plan to instead use targeted therapies (“smart bombs”) that specifically target lung tumors without the harmful side effects.
  • Repurposing current and emerging drugs in new clinical trials for lung cancer by using drugs that have had promising results in other cancers, including ibrutinib, and dasatinib.
  • DNA profiling of tumors and genetic mutations to identify the exact lung cancer subtype and choose the most effective targeted therapies.

Philanthropy is essential to the moon shots mission. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths and is strikingly underfunded by federal grants. Support is urgently needed to build the huge databases of information and other technology platforms necessary for truly transformational lung cancer research. Even modest gifts help us create the infrastructure necessary to end lung cancer.

Meet the Team: Lung

The moon shot leaders have galvanized a large and integrated team that is moving forward in a milestone-driven manner to convert scientific knowledge into drugs, tests, devices and policies that can benefit patients as quickly as possible.

Stephen Swisher, M.D.
Head Ad Interim, Division of Surgery; Chair and Professor, Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery
John Heymach, M.D., PH.D.
Chair and Professor, Thoracic/Head & Neck Medical Oncology
Lung Team
Lung Team

Stories of Hope: Lung

Tom Barber
Lung Cancer Survivor

Tom Barber is one of four members of his immediate family who have had lung cancer and the only one to survive the disease. Early in his lung cancer journey, Tom decided the two most important words he could say to himself were “I can.” He says, “Ultimately, the words ‘I can’ mean obsessing more about life and less about cancer.” Since completing his treatment, he’s competed in 5K and 10K runs, a half-marathon and two triathlons. “People who know me look at me as a cancer survivor, not a victim. That gives me hope.” Continue reading...