Lung Cancer Initiative Awards $325,000 in Research Funding

Lung Cancer Initiative Awards $325,000 in Research Funding
February 1, 2023

(Raleigh, NC) Lung Cancer Initiative (LCI) has recently awarded lung cancer research grants totaling $325,000 to six researchers from across North Carolina.  Grants include LCI’s annual $150,000 Career Development Award, three $25,000 Innovation in Lung Cancer Research Awards, and one $100,000 Alumni Supplemental Grant to support a researcher who has received prior funding from LCI.

“The goal of LCI’s research programs are to provide opportunities for continued growth and involvement in the field of lung cancer research,” said Neal Ready, MD, PhD Chair of LCI’s Scientific Advisory Committee.  “We know research has led to many recent advancements including the five-year survival rate for lung cancer which is now at 25%, and we seek to support researchers so that they can continue to grow in the field and pursue even further advancements for all those impacted by lung cancer.”

Lung Cancer Initiative’s Research Program

Since 2008, LCI has funded more than $3 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.  Last year, LCI also awarded two $25,000 Lung Cancer Research Fellowship grants for 2022-23.

In 2023, LCI will also partner with LUNGevity Foundation on a three-year $300,000 Career Development Award.  Research that will be funded is expected to have a direct impact on the early detection of lung cancer and/or individualized lung cancer treatment, including targeted therapy and immunotherapy.

Grant Recipients

Thomas Lycan, DO, MHS, Wake Forest University Health Sciences

2023 Career Development Award Recipient

Project Title:  Phase II pilot study of quick start durvalumab following chemoradiation for stage III non-small cell lung cancer

Dr. Thomas Lycan and his research team at Wake Forest Baptist Health will conduct a clinical trial to test the quick start of durvalumab immediately after chemoradiation.  Although the standard treatment includes a rest period of three to six weeks before starting durvalumab, more evidence suggests that quickly starting immunotherapy immediately after chemoradiation may increase the chance of a cure. Dr. Lycan and his team will measure how many patients have different barriers to quickly starting immunotherapy after chemoradiation and will start collecting information on how well this approach works. This pilot study of a small number of patients will gather critical information on implementing this approach and collect blood tests on how the immune system behaves differently.

Through the $150,000, two-year Career Development Grant, LCI supports emerging research leaders who plan to continue their career in the field of lung cancer.  The researcher’s project must be focused on basic scientific research with the goal of impacting lung cancer care, including lung cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, or survivorship.


Limei Shen, PhD, UNC Chapel Hill

Cody McHale, PhD and Anna Ivanina Foureau, PhD, Atrium Health

Alan Chen, PhD, Duke University School of Medicine

Vicky Amidon Innovation in Lung Cancer Research Award

Limei Shen, PhD, UNC Chapel Hill

Dr. Limei Shen plans to engineer modulators that can normalize immunosuppressive environments to enable enhanced therapy for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), while also creating a microenvironment suited for suppressing tumors. These are known as biTEM or bispecific tumor-microenvironment modulators. Shen will also design antibodies which help evaluate whether these biTEMs would be more effective at suppressing tumors with the addition of a bispecific antibody.

For the future of her work, Shen is optimistic. “I hope my study and strategy could someday benefit clinic patients,” she said.

Cody McHale, PhD and Anna Ivanina Foureau, PhD, Atrium Health

Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations are one of the most common molecular subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer and can be treated with EGFR targeted therapy, tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI). While EGFR targeted therapy generates good response rates, patients inevitably develop resistance to these treatments. Mechanisms of resistance to EGFR TKI are poorly understood, but it’s known that drug-induced changes to tumor metabolism, tumor signaling, and local immune cell function are major contributors. In this study, Drs. Cody McHale and Ivanina Foureau propose to use their novel dual-target drug, LCI28, to disrupt drug-induced NSCLC reprogramming and stimulate anti-tumor immunity.

“By equipping a single drug with multiple warheads against cancer, this research may pave the way to limiting such side effects while maintaining high potency against cancer,” McHale said.

Alan Chen, PhD, Duke University

Checkpoint inhibition therapy has proven to be effective in combating NSCLC by reversing inhibition of T cells. B cells that make antibody immune proteins are also important for the anti-tumor response of the body. In patients who respond well to the checkpoint therapy, there are proteins on the tumor cell surface recognized by the patient’s own B cell immune system as part of the anti-tumor response. By designing antibodies that target these tumor proteins, Dr. Alan Chen hopes to boost the effectiveness of checkpoint inhibition therapy, especially in post-treatment patients whose cancer continues to progress.

“This award will allow me to continue the discovery of novel tumor-associated antigens recognized by plasma cells in checkpoint inhibitor-treated NSCLC,” said Chen.

The Vicky Amidon Innovation in Lung Cancer Research Award is named in memory of Vicky Amidon a beloved wife, mother, and friend who lost her battle with lung cancer at the age of 44 and whose memory is furthered through her family’s advocacy and support for the advancement of lung cancer research and awareness. The one-year, $25,000 award recognizes and supports researchers who are developing innovative lung cancer projects that will improve the lives of those at risk of or living with lung cancer. 


Chad Pecot, MD, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

Alumni Supplemental Grant

Project Title:  Mechanistic and therapeutic implications of co-targeting KRAS and MYC in lung cancer

Use of treatments that block mutated cancer genes has resulted in huge improvements in cancer care. Despite this progress, two well-known genes, called KRAS and MYC, which have important roles in lung cancer, have been elusive for drug makers. Dr. Chad Pecot and his team at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center have developed a new RNA-based drug that is targeted to the tumor cells and can simultaneously silence both KRAS and MYC. This project seeks to determine how a tumor may respond to this aggressive treatment.

“This work will help us understand the complex environment that supports tumor growth and can help pave the way to newer medicines for lung cancer care,” said Pecot.

 LCI’s Alumni Supplemental Grant celebrates the organization’s 15th year as a 501 (c)3 by helping lung cancer researchers who have previously been funded by LCI to advance studies that are already underway and where additional funding is necessary to cover the cost of unanticipated time or resources needed to further the study or expand the original aims of the study.

About Lung Cancer Initiative

As the state’s leading nonprofit organization 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 support those affected by lung cancer through research, education, and access programs. For more information, please visit