Damon Runyon Researchers

Meet Our Scientists
Christine M. Lovly, MD, PhD

Lung cancer is responsible for more cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and worldwide each year than any other cancer. Historically, patients with advanced metastatic disease have been treated with conventional chemotherapy. Recently, however, subsets of lung cancer patients have been identified with specific molecular alterations that allow for treatment with rationally chosen targeted therapies. One molecular subset of lung cancer is characterized by the presence of alterations in a protein called ALK tyrosine kinase. Patients with lung cancers that harbor ALK fusions derive significant clinical benefit from a newly approved drug that blocks the action of the mutant ALK. Unfortunately, the degree and duration of tumor response to ALK inhibitor drugs varies, and patients inevitably develop progressive disease, or "acquired resistance." Additional strategies are needed to improve the treatment of these lung cancer patients.

Dr. Lovly's goal is to develop novel treatment strategies for ALK positive lung cancer.

She plans to improve our understanding of how ALK fusions transmit signals to promote cancer and of how these signals become altered in the context of acquired resistance to ALK inhibitors. Her work will identify novel targets that can be blocked in combination with ALK inhibitors, to promote enhanced anti-tumor responses. Since ALK mutations have been described in a growing number of hematologic and solid organ tumors, an improved understanding of ALK signaling-as well as mechanisms of resistance to ALK inhibition-may also have potential implications for other cancers. 

Project title: "Developing novel therapeutic strategies for ALK-fusion positive lung cancer"
Institution: Vanderbilt University
Award Program: Clinical Investigator
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Pierre P. Massion, MD & David P. Carbone, MD, PhD
Cancer Type: Lung
Research Area: Experimental Therapeutics