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UPCI Oncologist Recognized for Lung Cancer Research that Promises New Therapies

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Medical oncologist Timothy Burns, M.D., Ph.D., has been recognized for his work in lung cancer research with two awards: the American Lung Association’s (ALA) Lung Cancer Discovery Award and the LUNGevity Foundation’s Career Development Award, together totaling $500,000.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States and worldwide. Recent advances in the treatment of lung cancer have come from the recognition that lung cancer is not a single disease, but rather a collection of distinct cancers driven by cancer genes, called oncogenes, that cause the tumors to grow.

“This knowledge has led to the development of targeted therapies for a small percentage of patients, and we think this approach has great promise in our push for personalized medicine,” said Dr. Burns, assistant professor of medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Division of Hematology/Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, partner with the UPMC CancerCenter.

For the ALA grant, Burns will receive $200,000 over two years for research to develop novel therapies for patients with certain oncogene-dependent lung cancers.

The three-year, $300,000 LUNGevity Career Development grant is for research into the development of novel therapies for patients with non-small cell lung cancer. In these patients, a protein called KRAS often becomes inappropriately turned on and causes a tumor to grow. Patients with KRAS-mutated lung cancer have a poor prognosis, and no current therapies target this critical oncogene.