Moffitt gets $10.2 million grant to develop lung cancer treatments

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers worked through pandemic protocols to secure the funding.
The entrance to Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa.
The entrance to Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa. [ Courtesy of Moffitt Cancer Center ]
Published Jun. 29, 2021|Updated Jun. 30, 2021

For the past three years, the Moffitt Cancer Center has been researching how lung cancer cells develop and grow rapidly. They’re trying to develop new cures for lung cancer, and those efforts are getting a $10.2 million boost.

The National Cancer Institute on Monday awarded the 5-year grant to the Tampa institute’s lung cancer metabolism working group to further research projects centered on lung cancer metabolism, lung cancer being the leader cause of cancer deaths worldwide.

The program project grant includes four different projects dedicated to improving treatments for lung cancer and understanding how lung cancer develops across small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancers. Researchers hope the research will produce new lung cancer therapies.

Moffitt researchers started working on the project in January 2018 and start applying for grant money in March 2019, working with the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health. Elsa Flores, the principal investigator for the grant and chair of Moffitt’s Department of Molecular Oncology, says the National Institutes of Health wanted to see more experiments before approving the grant.

Then in 2020, researchers had to work under pandemic protocols to finish their work for the application. Altogether it took 3½ years to win approval.

“It’s difficult because we had less access to the labs than we had before,” said Flores, who also leads the Cancer Biology and Evolution Program. “So it was really everybody cooperating to, you know, come into the lab during their shift and getting their work done. So we are really excited to get this grant.”

Typical therapy for lung cancer varies from radiation, surgery, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. However Moffitt Lung Cancer Center of Excellence Director Eric Haura, who serves as co-principal investigator overseeing the grant, said in a prepared statement that these common treatments can be improved.

“We see about 1,800 new lung cancer patients each year in our thoracic clinic,” he said. “We are seeing what works and what doesn’t.

“We know improvements can be made to appropriately apply standard of care treatments and even develop new, more targeted therapies, but first we need to further our understanding of the basic biology of lung cancer disease progression. These four projects will help our team do just that.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated June 30.