Fox Chase Researcher Receives Grant to Study Lung Cancer Environment and Vulnerabilities

Israel Cañadas, PhD
Israel Cañadas, PhD

PHILADELPHIA (April 23, 2020)— Israel Cañadas, PhD, an assistant professor in the Blood Cell Development and Function Research Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center, recently transferred a grant that will allow him to study how different cancer cells within a tumor may affect the environment around it and the tumor’s response to therapy.

The grant was awarded to Cañadas by the Lung Cancer Research Foundation in 2018 and was transferred after Cañadas began his own lab focusing on tumor immunity and microenvironment at Fox Chase last year. The grant awards Cañadas a total of $150,000 over two years.

“Both small-cell and non-small cell lung cancers contain different subpopulations of cancer cells, a feature known as tumor heterogeneity. Although this cell heterogeneity is a key determinant of cancer progression and drug resistance, how it impacts the immune system in lung cancer patients remains incompletely defined,” Cañadas said. “This project is highly relevant because it could directly improve outcomes for lung cancer patients.”

The research is predicated on a group of genetic elements known as endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). These ERVs become altered in certain drug-resistant populations of lung cancer cells. His work has shown that signaling from ERVs promotes tumor growth; but at the same time, the retroviruses can also make cancer cells vulnerable to immunotherapy.

Cañadas is seeking to connect the drug-resistant cancer cell state to the activation of ERVs and use this information to develop new drugs that could enhance a tumor’s response to immunotherapy.

“The proposed strategy addresses a key unmet need in the field in an effort to overcome resistance to immunotherapy due to intra-tumoral heterogeneity. If the proposed preclinical research shows promising results, we will be directly positioned to open a clinical trial in lung cancer patients using effective combination therapies,” said Cañadas.

Although the research will be focused primarily on lung cancer, Cañadas expects his research findings will impact the treatment of other cancer types that are similarly characterized and driven by different cancer cells within a tumor.

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence six consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

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