Improving Treatment Options for Patients With Lung Cancer

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

Lung Cancer: Two 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.

These patients are usually treated with combination chemotherapy regimens including a platinum-based compound such as cisplatin. However, only about 30% of tumors respond to therapy and the five-year survival rate is only 15%.

Approximately 20% of patients have small cell lung cancer (SCLC). SCLC is highly responsive to platinum-based chemotherapy with ~80% response rate. However, tumors almost always acquire resistance, and there are currently no targeted therapies approved for these 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 imaging technologies (such as micro-CT and bioluminescent imaging). We also use mouse and human cancer cell lines to probe the function of particular genes and signaling pathways.

Other techniques used in the lab include genomics, single-cell sequencing technologies, 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 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

Huntsman Cancer Institute, lung-cancer, cancer-research

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

Huntsman Cancer Institute, lung-cancer, cancer-research,

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

Developing Better Targeted Therapies
Feb 15, 2018

Developing Better Targeted Therapies

Huntsman Cancer Institute, cancer-research, precision-medicine, lung-cancer, breast-cancer, leukemia, community-report, clinical-trials

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

 Huntsman Cancer Institute Research Holds Promise for Personalized Lung Cancer Treatments
Jan 12, 2017

Huntsman Cancer Institute Research Holds Promise for Personalized Lung Cancer Treatments

Huntsman Cancer Institute,

New research from scientists at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah uncovered distinct types of tumors within small cell lung cancer that look and act differently from one another. Scientists also identified a targeted drug combination that worked well with one specific tumor type. The study was published today in Cancer Cell. The findings suggest small cell lung cancer should not be treated as a uniform disease... Read More

Trudy Oliver

Trudy G. Oliver, BSc (Hons), PhD
Principal Investigator
Associate Professor

Cancer Center Bio