Christopher Maher, PhD, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis was awarded a LUNGevity Career Development Award in 2012. Though he is still forging his career as a scientist, he has already leveraged advanced sequencing technologies to identify important genetic changes in prostate and breast cancers. As he now turns his attention to the pulmonary system, he has the potential to make similar progress in lung cancer.
In previous work, Dr. Maher’s team developed new computational strategies to detect key genetic changes that were missed using older techniques. Some of these new genetic changes are gaining a lot of attention in the cancer research community. Two of his groundbreaking discoveries are currently being developed as novel therapeutic approaches in prostate and breast cancers.
This award will support the continued application of his technological approach to lung cancer and his growth as a scientist focused on lung cancer solutions. In addition to the financial investment, the award requires that Dr. Maher participates in a structured mentoring program at his institution and becomes an ex officio member of LUNGevity’s Scientific Advisory Board for the duration of his award.
This LUNGevity grant allows Dr. Maher to work towards improving the accuracy and usability of tests that identify lung cancer patients who are likely to relapse. Previously, scientists identified a signature set of genetic changes in lung cancer patients that indicates an increased risk of lung cancer relapse. By identifying patients who are likely (and unlikely) to relapse, the scientists were developing a test to help physicians personalize treatment plans to account for relapse risk.
Dr. Maher is wielding next-generation sequencing techniques to improve the accuracy of this signature set of genetic changes and convert it into a clinical test to make it easier for hospitals and physicians to screen for these changes. By identifying the key changes and ensuring the testing methods are user-friendly for hospitals, Dr. Maher could be laying the groundwork for an improved test that could be widely-adopted by hospitals to determine patients’ risk of lung cancer relapse.