Researcher Profile: Lecia Sequist

Lecia Sequist

Lecia V. Sequist, MD, MPH, Associate Professor at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, has been awarded a research grant from LUNGevity Foundation to lay the groundwork for overcoming drug resistance when treating non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Dr. Sequist is collaborating on this project with Jeffrey Engelman, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for Thoracic Cancers at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Joel Neal, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology at Stanford University.

Many NSCLC patients with specific mutations in their EGFR gene have great success with targeted treatments for about a year, but then tumors can learn to resist treatment and begin to grow again. This problem, called acquired resistance, has been difficult for researchers to study. One of their biggest obstacles has been the lack of tissue samples from appropriate sources. Dr. Sequist has already taken steps to address this issue. She established a repeat-biopsy program that includes growing actual patient tumor samples in laboratory models. This program ensures that she will have the samples needed to make efficient progress in her experiments.

With the research grant from LUNGevity and the unique tools at her disposal, Dr. Sequist is poised to identify the key mechanisms of acquired resistance in NSCLC patients with EGFR mutations. In addition, she is hopeful that discovering these underlying processes will allow her team and others to begin developing new treatments to help patients overcome the acquired resistance.

“This is a very exciting time,” says Dr. Sequist, “We finally have the tools we need to conduct these experiments.”

If these studies are successful, Dr. Sequist and her team will be uncovering the mechanisms of acquired resistance to EGFR-specific therapies in NSCLC patients. This will open the door to treatment options that are specifically designed to circumvent these mechanisms of resistance and to increase the effectiveness of treatment.  Ultimately, Dr. Sequist and her team will be improving patient outcomes and giving hope to lung cancer survivors worldwide.