Supporting Lung Cancer Diagnostic Testing Program
What have you been able to accomplish so far?
The goal of our Salah Foundation funded research is to develop biomarkers to guide the selection of the best treatment for each lung cancer patient from diverse options, including targeted drugs, immune checkpoint blockers, cellular therapies, and clinical trials. Our team has recruited feedback about the most important biomarkers to evaluate via presentations to the Moffitt Clinical Trials Group, Immunotherapy Working Group and clinical departments. We also gained support from the Pathology Department and Advanced Diagnostics Laboratory for this assay development and implementation plan.
Our strategy is to build upon previous success with the Moffitt STAR panel, an assay that currently detects cancer-driving mutations and fusions in a patient’s cancer samples. With Salah Foundation funding, we recruited Aileen Alontaga, PhD, to validate and implement a new panel to further evaluate gene expression in patient’s cancer samples. She has completed training and recently began performing evaluations of RNA expression in patient samples with the Nanostring platform. She has also successfully applied for a small grant offered by Nanostring to receive discounted reagents to evaluate RNA expression in 24 cancer samples. Furthermore, we have performed the initial development of a protein panel that identifies and quantifies proteins to support the prediction of response to each individual treatment. Currently, this panel has been tested to quantify immune checkpoint proteins in a cell line model and cancer-driving drug targets in lung cancer research samples from patients. An additional panel that quantifies cancer antigens is also under development. We recruited Sudhir Reddy, PhD, to complete development, perform validation and initiate implementation of the consolidated final panel for clinical use.
What is next for the project?
Individualized treatments and clinical trials help improve cancer patient outcomes. We plan to validate and implement sophisticated and novel testing of lung cancer tissue relevant to different clinical treatment scenarios (e.g. prediction of effectiveness or inhibition of lung cancer driven by EGFR signaling as well as patients’ response to immunotherapy). We are also investigating ways to present these complex biomarker results to physicians to maximize their ability to understand the results and use the data to direct patients to treatment or match them to clinical trials. As a result of the Salah Grant, our goal is that every patient with Lung Cancer who is treated at Moffitt will receive cutting-edge diagnostic testing (gene and protein expression) that is beyond routine patient care to guide the ideal individualized treatment plan, mainly with clinical trial matching. Furthermore, the impact of this testing system extends beyond thoracic care and Moffitt Cancer Center. The process we develop and the knowledge we gain can elevate the way all patients with cancer are treated.