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Understanding how submucosal gland myoepithelial cells respond to cigarette smoke

Institution: University of California, Los Angeles
Investigator(s): Brigitte Gomperts,
Award Cycle: 2019 (Cycle 29) Grant #: T29IP0597 Award: $499,678
Subject Area: Cancer
Award Type: High Impact Pilot Award

Initial Award Abstract
Lung cancer is the cancer that kills the most people world wide. It kills more people than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. It is well known that cigarette smoking causes precancers in the lungs that can then undergo a stepwise process to form true lung cancer. But these precancers are poorly understood and we don't understand how they form and why some of them resolve while others go on to become lung cancers. Our lab and others have shown that these precancers form from stem cells in the lung that are important for repair after injury. These stem cells are badly affected by smoking injury and don't work normally in smokers so that their airways don't repair normally. These airway stem cells respond to the smoking injury by making too many of themselves and they don't form the normal functional cells of the airway resulting in precancerous areas. Our goal is to understand what goes wrong with these stem cells, whether all of them or just subsets of them are affected, and why they don't repair normally so we can target this and promote normal lung repair. By better understanding this process our goal is to prevent lung cancer from happening in the first place. We believe that preventing lung cancer is the best way to cure lung cancer. To do these studies we will use cutting edge technology to identify the subsets of stem cells and find out what goes wrong with them when they are exposed to cigarette smoke and the lung repair process goes awry causing precancerous areas to form. Our ultimate goal is to develop a new therapy to prevent lung cancer from forming by promoting normal lung repair.