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Lung and Testis Cancers Research Update: Translating Science, Transforming Lives

There is no gap between discovery and treatment at Indiana University Cancer Center.   Our scientists and physician researchers are transforming lung and testis cancer care on multiple fronts: targeting cancer treatments to eliminate side effects, identifying those at risk for cancer and developing prevention strategies, and improving treatments for patients with metastatic disease.

Lawrence Einhorn, M.D., and his Indiana University Cancer Center research team are working to discover biomarkers for lung cancer to identify the disease in its earliest stages and use highly-targeted treatments to attack cancer when it is most curable.

More women, who have never smoked cigarettes, are getting lung cancer.  Biomarker studies with female non-smokers, both patient and non-patient, are underway and directed by Drs. Larry Einhorn and Nasser Hanna. They hope to identify risk factors for lung cancer.

Currently, most patients who have lung cancer surgery are treated with post-surgical chemotherapy to help prevent their cancer from returning.  Dr. Hanna and his colleagues hope to identify from biomarkers in the blood which patients need chemotherapy following surgery and which patients do not.

FDA approval of Alimta for lung cancer patients with advanced disease is creating new opportunities for research. Indiana University Cancer Center investigators are now combining Alimta with other agents potentially to enhance the drug’s effectiveness. Early-stage trials have now been completed here at IU Cancer Center with a major national study planned for fall 2006.

Many cancers require the growth of new blood vessels to promote their survival. This process is referred to as “angiogenesis.” Indiana University Cancer Center researchers are the first to test anti-angiogenic drugs in lung cancer patients with recurrent disease.  A major national study, directed by Dr. Hanna, is now underway based on the findings of these early studies at IU Cancer Center.

Most lung cancers respond well to platinum-based chemotherapies initially, but after time become resistant to the drug. Dr. Einhorn and his team are working to develop treatment strategies that will overcome drug resistance. Novel small molecules that can overcome the mechanism of resistance are being investigated by John Turchi, Ph.D.   His research includes working with Kenneth Kesler, M.D., to determine if there are biomarkers in lung cancer tissue that identify tumors as inherently resistant to platinum.

Some patients still die of testis cancer because they become resistant to the standard therapy. By studying new agents and therapeutic approaches, Dr. Einhorn hopes to be able to cure otherwise incurable testis cancer patients.  Dr. Einhorn continues to enroll patients in a clinical trial testing new agents that opened in 2005.

Some testis cancer patients continue to struggle with nausea and vomiting, which can leave them too weak to complete their treatments. Currently, Dr. Einhorn and his team are conducting studies testing new agents that may enhance a patient’s quality of life during treatment.