Dr. Edward Garon, professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of the Signal Transduction and Therapeutics Program at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, was awarded two grants totaling over $3.5 million from the National Institutes of Health to help improve outcomes for patients with early and advanced stages of non-small cell lung cancer.
While there have been significant advances in the past decade, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States and worldwide. The funding will help support Garon’s work in investigating the role of motif neoepitopes, a specific type of genetic mutation found in approximately one quarter of lung cancer patients. Garon and his team previously demonstrated a role for motif neoepitopes in influencing treatment outcomes in immunotherapy treated patients with advanced lung cancer.
The first study will examine how the presence of motif neoepitopes influences the effectiveness of current immunotherapy approaches in early-stage patients. The team will collect and analyze data from patients’ tumors to better understand how the tumor environment changes in those with or without motif neoepitopes. This insight can potentially help predict which patients will benefit the most from standard approaches and which patients may need treatment intensification or alternative approaches.
The second study will explore the use of a novel treatment strategy that uses a dendritic cell-based vaccine to enhance anti-tumor immune responses. The researchers hope that by exposing dendritic cells, a type of immune cell that instructs the immune system about what to target, to the proteins made by motif neoepitopes, they will activate the immune system to help the body recognize and fight the cancer.
“By understanding the immunological changes and potential therapeutic applications of motif neoepitopes, we hope we can help improve approaches using the body’s natural ability to fight lung cancer to personalize immunotherapy approaches,” Garon said.