UF researchers receive grant to study lung cancer therapeutic

A team of UF Health Cancer Center researchers has received a $587,097 grant from the Florida Department of Health Bankhead-Coley Research Program to study the development of a targeted therapy for an aggressive form of lung cancer.

Lizi Wu, Ph.D.

The research, led by Lizi Wu, Ph.D., a professor in the department of molecular genetics and microbiology in the UF College of Medicine, aims to provide new insights into treatment for a form of lung cancer characterized by genetic alternations in the tumor suppressor gene LKB1 (STK11). Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for 85% of all lung cancer cases, of which 15% to 30% have the genetic alteration in which LKB1 is inactivated. Lung cancer with LKB1 inactivation is aggressive and responds poorly to treatment, with no available targeted therapies.

The team previously found that that the expression of the insulin-like 4, or INSL4, gene is regulated by LKB1 and plays a key role in the growth of LKB1-mutant lung cancer. The group hypothesizes that INSL4 may be a treatment target and will evaluate strategies to target INSL4 signaling in preclinical models.

“We are excited to gain a deeper understanding of how INSL4 operates in lung cancer,” said Wu, who serves as co-leader of the Cancer Center’s Mechanisms of Oncogenesis research program. “Our primary goal is to develop new strategies that can offer diagnostic and therapeutic benefits to patients, and we are fully dedicated to achieving this objective.”

Wu is collaborating on the project with Frederic Kaye, M.D., a professor in the division of hematology and oncology in the UF College of Medicine, and Jianrong Lu, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology in the UF College of Medicine.

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