Lung Cancer Initiative (LCI) has awarded Chuan-Yuan Li, PhD

Lung Cancer Initiative Awards $50,000 Innovation Grant to Chuan-Yuan Li, PhD, to Enhance Immunotherapy of LKB1/STK11-mutant Lung Cancer

Raleigh, NC, December 2, 2021 – Lung Cancer Initiative (LCI) has awarded Chuan-Yuan Li, PhD, Duke University, the Vicky Amidon Innovation in Lung Cancer Research Award to support his innovative work in targeting PCSK9 to enhance immunotherapy of LKB1/STK11-mutant lung cancer. The $50,000 one-year grant will fund Dr. Li’s research that explores a novel strategy to evaluate if inhibitors of the PCSK9 protein can overcome the resistance to immune checkpoint inhibitors in the LKB1-mutant lung cancers.

“I’m excited to know this type of work is funded by LCI,” said Chad Pecot, MD, LCI Scientific Advisory Committee. “The concepts in Dr. Li’s proposal are exciting, and we could see real evidence of helping patients in the near future.”

Immune checkpoint inhibitors have shown great promise in the treatment of lung cancer, but most lung cancer patients have not been able to benefit from this revolutionary form of therapy due to numerous factors that limit the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors. One crucial factor that affects 20 percent of lung cancer patients is the mutation in a gene named LKB1. Previous studies have shown that lung cancer patients with LKB1 mutations are less likely to respond to immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy.

“I am very grateful for the support of the Lung Cancer Initiative. The grant will allow us to evaluate the feasibility of repurposing an FDA-approved cholesterol drug to enhance lung cancer immunotherapy” said Dr. Li. “We hope it will eventually provide benefits to lung cancer patients who currently respond to immunotherapy.”

In Dr. Li’s project, he will explore a novel strategy to evaluate if inhibitors of the PCSK9 protein, which has been clinically approved for cholesterol control in patients who do not respond to statins, can overcome the resistance to immune checkpoint inhibitors in the LKB1-mutant lung cancers. If successful, Dr. Li’s study could lay a foundation to evaluate the PCSK9 inhibitors, which have shown minimal toxicity in human cardiology patients, in treating LKB1-mutant lung cancers in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors.

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 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.

Annually, lung cancer claims more lives in North Carolina and the US than any other cancer and more than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. In 2021, an estimated 8,830 individuals will be diagnosed with the disease in North Carolina. Since 2008, LCI has funded more than $2.8 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 ResearchCareer Development Award, and innovation grant.

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 provide support to those affected by lung cancer through research, education, and access programs. For more information, please visit


For more information, contact Lane Moore Communications & Development Specialist at, or Paige Humble Chief Executive Officer of Lung Cancer Initiative, at, or call (919) 784-0410.