Improving Treatment Options for Patients With Lung Cancer

The Oliver Lab focuses on mechanisms of tumor development, progression, and drug resistance in lung cancer with the goal of improving treatment options for patients with lung cancer.

Lung Cancer: Major Subtypes

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States and is divided into two major subtypes: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). More than 80% of lung cancer patients have NSCLC, which are typically adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or large cell carcinoma.

Approximately 20% of patients have small cell lung cancer (SCLC). SCLC is highly responsive to platinum-based chemotherapy with ~80% response rate, but tumors almost always acquire rapid resistance. There are currently no targeted therapies approved for SCLC patients beyond the recent approval of immunotherapy, which only benefits a small percentage of patients. Drug resistance, both inherent and acquired, is a major problem preventing effective lung cancer treatment.

Personalizing Cancer Therapies

The Oliver Lab is interested in understanding mechanisms of therapeutic response and resistance in order to personalize cancer therapies based on the characteristics of a given tumor. Our approach is to integrate human genomics/sequencing data with mechanistic data gleaned from cell culture systems and sophisticated mouse models of lung cancer.

We use mouse models of lung cancer that closely resemble human lung cancer. Genes that are altered in human lung cancer are altered by genetic engineering in mice, or by lentiviral delivery of genes specifically to the mouse lung. We use bacterial Cre/LoxP systems and CRISPR/Cas9 systems to alter cancer genes in living mice. To monitor the therapeutic response of mouse lung tumors, we use state-of-the-art micro-CT imaging technologies. We also use cancer cell lines, as well as patient-derived xenografts from tumors and circulating tumor cells to probe the function of specific genes and signaling pathways.

Other techniques used in the lab include single-cell sequencing technologies, genomics, biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, lentiviral technologies and high-throughput drug screening. We have numerous collaborators in the United States and internationally, and we work with pharmaceutical companies to test novel therapies in our mouse models.

News & Blog

Gertz and Oliver as Cancer Center Research Program Leaders
Dec 18, 2020

Gertz and Oliver as Cancer Center Research Program Leaders

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah announced Jay Gertz, PhD, and Trudy G. Oliver, PhD, have accepted invitations to serve as co-leaders of Huntsman Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center research programs. Gertz will serve alongside Jared Rutter, PhD, as co-leader of the Nuclear Control of Cell Growth and Differentiation Program. Oliver will serve alongside Sheri Holmen, PhD, as co-leader of the Cell Response and Regulation Program.... Read More

Researchers Identify a Moving Target in Small Cell Lung Tumors
Jun 02, 2020

Researchers Identify a Moving Target in Small Cell Lung Tumors

About 15 percent of lung cancers are classified as small cell lung cancer. Recent studies have indicated that four major subtypes of small cell lung cancer exist, yet approaches to tailor treatment of these subtypes have not yet become standard of care. Today in the journal Cancer Cell, scientists outline new findings about the origins of these lung cancer subtypes, paving the way for a new foundation to study this disease.... Read More

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Trudy G. Oliver, BSc (Hons), PhD
Principal Investigator
Associate Professor
HCI Endowed Chair in Cancer Research
Co-Leader Lung Cancer Center
Co-Leader Cell Response and Regulation

Cancer Center Bio