Dr. David MacPherson

Dr. John Poirier

The second annual ALCF-VAPF Young Innovators Team Award was given to Drs. David MacPherson (left, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center) and John Poirier (right, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center /Cornell University) for their project titled Using GEMM and PDX Models to Investigate EZH2 as a Therapeutic Target in Small Cell Lung Cancer, which will investigate a novel, targeted approach to treating small cell lung cancer.

SCLC is defined by the universal loss of two genes: RB1 and TP53. Because these genes are lost or damaged, there is no way to make a medicine that specifically targets them. However, there is emerging evidence suggesting that the loss of these two genes introduces a new vulnerability: dependence on a third gene called Enhancer of Zeste 2 (EZH2). Unlike RB1 and TP53, EZH2 expression and activity are increased in SCLC, providing something for clinicians to target.

“We are grateful to ALCF and VAPF for their commitment to investing research dollars to improve treatments for lung cancer, especially in areas that are often overlooked,” said Dr. MacPherson. “Research into small cell lung cancer has been under supported for too long. This award has allowed two labs with expertise in different but highly complementary model systems to work together for the first time. This is a highly synergistic, collaborative effort enabled by ALCF-VAPF support that has the potential to benefit a substantial proportion of SCLC patients.”