Researcher Profile: Lauren Byers

Dr. Lauren Byers

Lauren Byers, MD, Assistant Professor of Thoracic and Head and Neck Medical Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, was awarded a LUNGevity Career Development Award. Though she is still building her career as a scientist, her exceptional discovery of a potential new treatment for small cell lung cancer has demonstrated her promise as a lifelong lung cancer researcher.

In studies published in the journal Cancer Discovery, Dr. Byers has found a new therapeutic approach that might help patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC). She discovered that patients with SCLC have an over-abundance of a specific protein, called PARP1, which helps repair damaged DNA. She found that she could kill SCLC cells in the laboratory by adding a drug that stops PARP1 from working. In additional laboratory experiments, she has found that the drug also improves the activity of chemotherapy drugs that work by causing DNA damage. Eager to determine if this PARP1 inhibitor drug could be used with chemotherapy to become a new treatment option for SCLC patients, Dr. Byers is assembling a Phase II clinical trial that has already been approved by the National Cancer Institute.

This award will support her continued progress in developing a new lung cancer treatment and her continued growth as a scientist focused on lung cancer solutions. In addition to the financial investment, the award requires Dr. Byers to participate in a structured mentoring program at her institution, as well as become an ex officio member of LUNGevity’s Scientific Advisory Board for the duration of her award.

This LUNGevity grant allows Dr. Byers to use data and samples collected from her clinical trial to discover biomarkers to identify patients that are most likely to benefit from this treatment. In addition, it allows her to continue her work defining the sensitivity of SCLC to the PARP1 inhibitor drug in the presence and absence of chemotherapy. By conducting these follow-up studies, Dr. Byers is taking steps toward her ultimate goal of using PARP inhibitor drugs to advance the treatment of small cell lung cancer.