Researcher Profile: Suzanne Miyamoto

Dr. Suzanne Miyamoto

Suzanne Miyamoto, PhD, Associate Research Biochemist, and her colleagues at the University of California, Davis, have been awarded a research grant from LUNGevity Foundation to develop sensitive early detection methods for lung cancer patients.

Dr. Miyamoto, a principal investigator in the Division of Hematology and Oncology, is collaborating on this project with Karen Kelly, MD, Director of Phase I Clinical Trials; Oliver Fiehn, PhD, Director of the Metabolomics Core Facility; Carlito Lebrilla, PhD, Professor of Chemistry; and Kyoungmi Kim, PhD, Public Health Biostatistician.

Only 16 percent of lung cancer patients survive five years after diagnosis. This low survival rate is in large part due to our inability to detect lung cancer in its earliest and most treatable stage. Computed tomography (CT) screening is a promising method for the early detection of lung cancer and the reduction in lung cancer deaths. However, it remains to be determined how these expensive scans will be incorporated into standard practice. Biomarker-based screening methods such as those being proposed by Dr. Miyamoto and her colleagues might complement CT scans. These types of methods, which would be less expensive and more easily accessible to all high-risk populations, could be vital to making early lung cancer detection financially feasible.

 “We have assembled an incredible team of scientists, clinicians and statisticians at UC Davis–people with real expertise in these areas–who are working closely together to identify relevant biomarkers in early stage lung cancer that can then be developed into an inexpensive blood test for early detection of lung cancer,” says Dr. Miyamoto. “We are a team of pulmonary oncologists and technologists with strong expertise in metabolomics and other ‘omics’ specialties who have experience developing tests to detect metabolites, sugars and lipids in human specimens.”

By pooling their collective knowledge and experience, this team is examining compositions of tumor tissue, non-malignant tissue and blood in three groups―cancer patients, healthy controls and patients with benign lung nodules― to ultimately identify suitable blood biomarkers.

Additional funding will be needed to further evaluate these biomarkers and develop blood tests for the early detection of lung cancer. Once these tests are available, the biomarkers will directly contribute to earlier lung cancer detection and improved survival rates for lung cancer patients.