2024-2025 LCI Research Fellows

2024-2025 LCI Research Fellows
July 10, 2024
RALEIGH, NC- Lung Cancer Initiative (LCI) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2024-2025 Lung Cancer Research Fellowship grants… Read More

LCI Awards $100,000 to Four North Carolina Research Fellows

RALEIGH, NC – Lung Cancer Initiative (LCI) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2024-2025 Lung Cancer Research Fellows grants at Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute, East Carolina University, the University of North Carolina at Lineberger Comprehensive Care Center, and Duke University. All recipients have demonstrated a measurable impact through their proposals and commitment to the lung cancer field. Each LCI fellow will receive a grant of $25,000 to continue their work and development. 

“Our goal through the Research Fellows Program has always been to support young investigators in training with seed money for pilot projects in lung cancer. If we get them interested in lung cancer early in their career, then perhaps they will use that pilot project to get preliminary data to support obtaining additional funding through an NCI, federal or other larger grants to continue lung cancer research as a career. At the very least, these recipients will have more awareness around lung cancer as they continue their medical path, and at best, they may go on to become thought leaders in lung cancer research and care,” said Jennifer Garst, MD, Board Chair, Lung Cancer Initiative.

Since 2015, LCI has provided $1.13 million to 45 fellows through this program. Ninety-seven percent of fellows have stayed in the field of lung cancer.

From four leading institutions across NC, this year’s fellows and their studies are highlighted below. Fellows will highlight their projects at LCI’s 2025 Annual Update and Awards Celebration.

2024 Lung Cancer Initiative Research Fellows

Aakriti Arora, MBBS, East Carolina University

Project: “Characterizing Plasma Inflammatory Cytokines Associated with Immune-Related Adverse Events (irAEs)” (Mentor: Li Yang, PhD)

“This study aims to identify cytokine profiles associated with immune-related adverse events ( irAEs) in non-small cell lung cancer patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors and complement them with a mouse model with Immune-mediated Colitis (IMC). By establishing these profiles, we hope to develop more effective strategies to predict, prevent, and manage irAEs, ultimately improving patient outcomes.”

Aaron Chack, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Project: “Dynamic Ablation of Circular RNAs as a Novel Target in Lung Cancer” (Mentor: Chad Pecot, MD)

“Recently, our group has identified a new molecular pathway that drives lung cancer metastasis in some of these aggressive cancers. Importantly, this pathway is normally inactive in healthy tissues, but is turned on in lung cancer. This is an actionable pathway, meaning that it is possible to target it with new treatments. We have created therapeutically active compounds that efficiently target this pathway in the laboratory, but the effectiveness of these compounds in animal models has not yet been determined. The proposed experiments will address this unanswered question by determining the efficiency of targeting this pathway in a living animal.” 

Huihua Li, MD, PhD, Duke University

Project: “CXCR2 Expression in Lung Neuroendocrine Neoplasms” (Mentor: Elizabeth Pavlisko, MD)

“CXCR2 is a G protein-coupled receptor for chemokine interleukin-8 (IL-8) that is involved in leukocyte chemotaxis and inflammatory responses. The specific aim of this study is to determine the expression levels of CXCR2 in lung neuroendocrine tumors (NETs, TC and AC) and neuroendocrine carcinomas (SCLC and LCNEC).  We will also examine whether CXCR2 is a useful marker to distinguish typical carcinoid from atypical carcinoid and evaluate the prognostic value of CXCR2 in lung NETs.”

Gray Magee, MD, Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute

Project: “Molecular Profiling and Clinical Outcomes of Young Adult Patients with Metastatic NSCLC” (Mentor: Kathryn Mileham, MD)

“Despite advances in targeted treatments for lung cancer, we believe that young adults face distinct challenges in obtaining these treatments due to delayed diagnoses, more aggressive cancer at diagnosis, and lack of access to modern testing (due to race, socioeconomic status, or geography). Our primary aim would be to investigate these challenges using patient data at our own institution, and then secondarily to determine institutional interventions to improve outcomes in this population.”

About Lung Cancer Initiative’s Research Program

Since 2008, LCI has funded more than $3.4 million in lung cancer research through programs like the research fellowship grant, health disparities in lung cancer grant in partnership with the V Foundation for Cancer Research, Career Development Award, and the Vicky Amidon Innovation in Lung Cancer Research Award.  

The purpose of LCI’s Research Fellows program is to further the development of local lung cancer care and research programs across the state of North Carolina. To date, LCI has supported 37 fellows through this program. By funding research activities of fellows, LCI helps further their careers and encourages their continued involvement in the field of lung cancer. This fellowship is provided for students who wish to pursue a career in lung cancer research, diagnosis, treatment and/or care. LCI fellowships are granted for one year, and recipients receive a $25,000 per year stipend.

About Lung Cancer Initiative

As a leading non-profit supporting lung cancer research and education, Lung Cancer Initiative specializes in connecting patients, survivors, and loved ones with the medical and research community. The organization’s mission is to advance survivorship and provide support to those affected by lung cancer through research, education, and access programs. For more information and to learn about ways to get involved, please visit www.LungCancerInitiative.org

Contact: 

For more information, contact Paige Humble, LCI Chief Executive Officer, at PHumble@LungCancerInitiative.org or (919) 784-0410.