Lung cancer accounts for the largest number of cancer deaths for both men and women. While there have been recent advances in treatment options for patients having lung tumors that have specific mutations, or by harnessing patients own immune systems, the vast majority of patients with advanced tumors will not respond to these treatments or they will relapse following an initial response. A common feature of lung tumors is their increased production of antioxidants, which promote their growth and survival and which contribute to resistance to therapies. The DeNicola lab studies how the production of antioxidants by lung tumor cells affects these processes, and how blocking antioxidant production inhibits tumor formation and progression.
We recently found that many lung tumors increase their levels of an antioxidant protein called NNT, which was not previously associated with lung cancer. Notably, studies of the DeNicola lab show that if NNT is not present, lung tumors cannot form. In these V Foundation Scholar studies, we will define how NNT is regulated in lung cancer cells, and will develop strategies to block the function of NNT. In addition, we seek to understand how NNT promotes tumor formation. These studies will provide an improved understanding of NNT, and will allow us to design better therapies for lung cancers that have increased NNT levels.