Researcher Profile: Frank Slack

Frank Slack

Frank Slack, PhD, Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University, and his colleagues have been awarded a research grant from LUNGevity Foundation to continue studying inherited sections of DNA that could be used as biomarkers for lung cancer risk or as targets for personalized treatment. 

Dr. Slack is collaborating on this project with Joanne Weidhaas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Therapeutic Radiology at Yale University, and Hai Tran, PharmD, Associate Professor of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

In previous work, Dr. Slack discovered a set of inherited genetic variations that could potentially be used as biomarkers for personalized lung cancer treatments. One of these sections of DNA, called the KRAS variant, is found in about 20 percent of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients and has been shown to be linked to an increased risk of NSCLC.  Research has also shown that patients with the KRAS variant are likely to benefit from some types of treatment but not from others.

Building on these studies, Dr. Slack and his collaborators are using cutting-edge techniques to target the KRAS variant as a possible approach to treating NSCLC in the future. In addition, the researchers are using laboratory cell lines and tissue samples from BATTLE-2, a large-scale lung cancer clinical trial, to continue testing the ability to use the KRAS variant to make treatment recommendations for NSCLC patients.

“We are very excited to be able to continue working on the KRAS variant,” says Dr. Slack. “It has a lot of potential as a treatment option, a biomarker of risk, and a predictor of treatment outcomes. That combination may turn out to be very powerful.”

If Dr. Slack and his collaborators are successful, they could be opening the door to major improvements for NSCLC patients with a new option for treatment and a more personalized treatment plan.