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 genomic/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. To monitor the therapeutic response of mouse lung tumors, we use in vivo 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 gene expression analyses, genomics, biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, lentiviral technologies and high-throughput drug screening.

News & Blog

 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

A New Tool to Confront Lung Cancer
Jun 19, 2014

A New Tool to Confront Lung Cancer

Huntsman Cancer Institute,

Only 15% of patients with squamous cell lung cancer – the second most common lung cancer – survive five years past diagnosis. Little is understood about how the deadly disease arises, preventing development of targeted therapies that could serve as a second line of defense once standard chemotherapy regimens fail.... Read More

Trudy Oliver

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

Cancer Center Bio