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

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

Huntsman Cancer Institute Appoints 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

Huntsman Cancer Institute Researchers Develop Potential New  Treatment for MYC-driven Small Cell Lung Cancer
Jul 18, 2019

Huntsman Cancer Institute Researchers Develop Potential New Treatment for MYC-driven Small Cell Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among men and women in Utah and the United States. Often, symptoms do not appear until the disease is advanced. Therefore, research studies toward better practices to prevent, find, and treat lung cancer are paramount. Research from scientists at Huntsman Cancer Institute yielded new insights into understanding potential new treatment options for MYC-driven tumors, a distinct subtype of small cell lung cancer.... Read More

Lung Cancer Research Foundation Awards $1.95 Million in Research Grants
Nov 01, 2018

Lung Cancer Research Foundation Awards $1.95 Million in Research Grants

The Lung Cancer Research Foundation (LCRF) announced the awardees of its 2018 Scientific Grant Program today during the Thirteenth Annual Lung Cancer Awareness Luncheon, held at The Pierre in New York City. Through this program, LCRF awarded $1.95 million in research grants to 13 investigators for innovative research focused on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of lung cancer. LCRF received a record-breaking 201 grant applications, representing 116 institutions and 21 countries in 2018. ... Read More

A Bad Influence: The Interplay between Tumor Cells and Immune Cells
Oct 16, 2018

A Bad Influence: The Interplay between Tumor Cells and Immune Cells

Research at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah yielded new insights into the environment surrounding different types of lung tumors, and described how these complex cell ecosystems may in turn ultimately affect response to treatment. The results were published today in Immunity and featured on the print cover of the journal. ... Read More

Developing Better Targeted Therapies
Feb 15, 2018

Developing Better Targeted Therapies

Targeted therapy in cancer treatment is often called personalized or precision medicine, according to the National Institutes of Health. Targeted therapies are designed to be more effective and less harmful than other approaches because the drugs are specially designed to meet the individual characteristics of each patient.... 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
trudy.oliver@hci.utah.edu

Cancer Center Bio