DALLAS July 21, 2009 Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center are among an elite group of cancer scientists to share a $2 million grant to find biomarkers for lung cancer that develops in people who have never smoked.
The National Cancer Institute's Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) and the Canary Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds research in early cancer detection, are providing initial funding of $1 million each for the first year of this project. The partnership will support studies designed to create a further understanding of the biology of lung cancer and to develop a test to detect early-stage lung cancer in lifetime nonsmokers.
Dr. Adi Gazdar, professor of pathology in UT Southwestern's Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology Research, is the principal investigator for the EDRN project, which will be conducted at five sites across the country.
"We know that smoking-related cancers are heavily dependent on how much one smokes. The more you smoke, the greater the risk," Dr. Gazdar said. "But why are so many new cases of lung cancer being diagnosed among never-smokers?"
Estimates suggest that as many as 25 percent of all lung cancers worldwide 15 percent of those in men and 50 percent of those in women are not attributable to smoking, although the figures for the U.S. are somewhat lower (10 percent of men and 20 percent of women for a total of 27,000 cases per year).
"If you consider lung cancer in never-smokers as a separate category, it ranks as the seventh-most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide," Dr. Gazdar said. "Lung cancer among never-smokers is really an ignored disease, yet it is such a major killer."
Research has shown that lung cancer in people who have never smoked differs in many ways from the disease in smokers. Nonsmokers with lung cancer have different tumor histology, gene mutations, and clinical and demographic profiles than smo
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UT Southwestern Medical Center