Researcher Profile: David Kozono

David Kozono

"We have a great opportunity in lung cancer radiation oncology to improve outcomes. Despite progress in early detection, the majority of patients present with disease that is too advanced for surgery alone. I lost my father to lung cancer, even though his was found when it was only locally advanced. I believe we can overcome those limitations that keep us from saving people like him and others in the near future."

David Kozono, MD, PhD, a radiation oncology specialist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, was awarded a LUNGevity Career Development Award. Though he is still forging his career as a scientist, his efforts to improve lung cancer treatment have demonstrated his promise as a successful lung cancer researcher.

In previous work, Dr. Kozono systematically deactivated nearly 18,000 genes to identify the best target for improving outcomes from radiation. He found that inhibiting the function of the proteasome, the cell’s recycling bin for proteins, caused tumor cells in mice to have fewer repair proteins to fix the DNA damage from radiation treatment. This makes the tumor cells more sensitive to radiation and opens the door for radiation treatments that ignore healthy tissue and specifically target tumor cells.

This award will support Dr. Kozono’s continued progress in improving the effectiveness of radiotherapy and his continued growth as a lung cancer researcher. In addition to the financial investment, the award requires Dr. Kozono to participate in a structured mentoring program at his institution, as well as become an ex officio member of LUNGevity’s Scientific Advisory Board for the duration of his award.

This LUNGevity grant allows Dr. Kozono to build upon his previous findings. He will study the effects of combining bortezomib, a drug that inhibits proteasome function and is already FDA-approved to treat multiple myeloma, with radiation to improve the precision and accuracy of lung cancer treatment. Using animal models, Dr. Kozono will identify biomarkers that are correlated with responses to combined treatments of radiotherapy and proteasome inhibition. In addition, he will use archived human biopsy samples to find biomarkers that are associated with specific patient responses to radiotherapy. Through this research, he aims to determine signature biomarker patterns in patients that predict poor outcomes from radiation treatment and improved responses through the addition of bortezomib.

If successful, Dr. Kozono will be laying the groundwork to fulfill his ultimate career goal of improving survival rates by developing radiation treatments that selectively kill lung cancer cells while leaving the surrounding vital organs unharmed.