Abeloff V Scholar*
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States, with over 155,000 patients dying each year. Several factors contribute to the poor outcome of lung cancer patients, but as in most tumors, the ability of cancer cells to leave the primary tumors and establish inoperable metastases is a major impediment to successful therapy. We have identified a key regulator or lung cancer metastasis. This protein, named Nkx2-1, suppresses metastasis and cancers, which at first express Nkx2-1, must evolve to loss Nkx2-1 prior to metastasis. Nkx2-1 is a certain type of protein that binds to the genome and controls the expression of other proteins therefore we are interested to figure out what those proteins are and which of them are critical regulators of metastasis. My V Foundation Scholar award has been critical for my laboratory work to uncover these components that drive lung cancer to its lethal metastatic state. My laboratory has developed genetically-engineered mouse models of human lung cancer that enable us to alter proteins in tumors and assess their impact on metastasis. We are using these methods to investigate the proteins controlled by Nkx2-1 with the hope that this project will enable a better understanding of lung cancer metastasis. Our work may have important implications for early lung cancer detection and therapies directed at inhibiting metastasis formation and treating metastatic disease.