Research progress report: Frizzled 9 and lung cancer chemoprevention

Published on January 29, 2015

Updated on February 13, 2018

Every year, lung cancer leads to more deaths than any other cancer. An estimated 159,2601 Americans were expected to die from lung cancer in 2014, accounting for about 27% of all cancer deaths.

The Foundation is committed to lung cancer prevention research and currently supports five researchers studying different aspects of preventing this deadly disease. One of these researchers is Meredith Tennis, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado Denver. Her project focuses on Frizzled 9, a protein that helps to maintain normal lung tissue, as a potential biomarker2 to predict how patients may respond to the drug iloprost, a drug being used for chemoprevention.

1 According to the American Cancer Society
2 Biomarker­- a biological indicator of a medical condition or illness

What led to your interest in lung cancer prevention research?
I lost my father to cancer at a young age, so cancer prevention is a very personal cause that I strongly support. I began my graduate work investigating the risk of lung cancer in women with previous breast cancer diagnoses and soon realized the importance of preventing second cancers in survivors. Since then, I have become passionate about how science can develop improved personalized prevention strategies and reduce the harm lung cancer causes around the world.

How is your research progressing?
We have shown that cigarette smoke leads to decreased Frizzled 9 levels in laboratory and mouse experiments and that Frizzled 9 is required to respond to iloprost. In a clinical trial of current and former smokers, only former smokers responded to iloprost. We hypothesize that removing exposure to cigarette smoke restores Frizzled 9 levels and allows patients to benefit from iloprost.

Our preliminary data suggest that smoking stops Frizzled 9 from protecting lung tissue and that the effectiveness of iloprost may be altered by environmental factors that cause genes to be switched on or off. Determining exactly how cigarette smoke affects Frizzled 9 is a new area of investigation arising from this project. We hope that this project will help us determine who will respond to lung cancer chemoprevention by iloprost so we can provide the drug to the patients who are most likely to benefit.

Cancer Prevention

The Prevent Cancer Foundation has been at the forefront of progress in lung cancer prevention and early detection. “Because lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in America and around the globe, the Foundation has always placed a strong emphasis on advancing research and awareness in that area,” said Carolyn Aldigé, President and Founder of the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

The Foundation was a key contributor to early conversations on the use of low-dose spiral CT screening to detect lung cancer early, and continues to promote screening for high-risk individuals through programs and educational materials. The Foundation also works to call attention to important lung cancer issues like the stigma that comes with diagnosis, the lack of research funding and the lack of clinical trials.

Dr. Tennis’ project is one of numerous projects on lung cancer prevention and early detection that the Foundation has funded since 1985.

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