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Our research into lung cancer

Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer worldwide, accounting for 20 per cent of cancer deaths. Our scientists are using genetics and artificial intelligence to help identify those at risk, develop treatment and improve patient prospects.  

Our latest lung cancer news

Meet our researchers

Our progress against lung cancer

Genetics

Our researchers have led studies analysing the genomes of both lung cancer patients and healthy people to pinpoint the genes that predict lung cancer.

For example, Professor Jyoti Choudhary worked on the most comprehensive study to date of lung cancer in non-smokers. It showed that lung cancer in non-smokers is a distinct disease from that in smokers, and is likely to respond differently to treatments.

We also helped identify parts of the genome that put smokers at greater risk of getting lung cancer, as well as determining the type of lung cancer that might develop.

Links to breast cancer

Our researchers have uncovered connections between lung cancer and breast cancer that shed light on how the diseases work and how to treat them.

A study led by geneticist Professor Richard Houlston, for example, was the first to link lung cancer with defective copies of the BRCA2 gene. Professor Chris Lord also headed a study that found the lung cancer drug critzotinib can be used to target breast cancers with a specific genetic defect.

I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2016, but thanks to research advances, nothing much has changed since then. I have always felt well, and I still do.

Being on targeted treatment has kept me fit, healthy and symptom-free for which I am so grateful. Cancer is just part of my life now.

- Doreen McGinley

Headshot of Doreen McGinley, older white female, taken in a field in the countryside

Drug resistance

Lung cancer tumours can develop resistance to drugs, a key hurdle to a patient’s full recovery.

Dr Paul Huang’s team is investigating this by identifying key resistance mechanisms and signalling pathways in lung cancer. They are also getting clues for long-lasting therapies from patients who respond well to treatment.

We are also using artificial intelligence to explore how lung cancer evolves to develop drug resistance. For example, Dr Yinyin Yuan's team trained an AI to distinguish between immune cells and lung cancer cells. This could become a new way to predict which patients are at higher risk of relapse. 

Immunotherapy

Our immunotherapy experts are aiming to develop personalised treatments for lung cancer patients, such as CAR T cell therapy – a complex but highly effective treatment tailored to each patient that reprograms their immune system to fight the disease.  

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As a UK charity, our life-saving research relies on the generosity of individuals and organisations. Our supporters help us make a difference to the lives of cancer patients and their families everywhere.

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Latest news on lung cancer

Meet our researchers

Dr Paul Huang

dr paul huang

Paul Huang uses systems biology and molecular pathology to study drug resistance in sarcomas and lung cancer.

Dr Paul Huang

Dr Yinyin Yuan

Yinyin Yuan

Yinyin Yuan studies lung cancer using artificial intelligence and digital pathology. She works on the interface between artificial intelligence, cancer biology, and clinical science.

Dr Yinyin Yuan

Professor Julian Downward

Professor Julian Downward

Julian Downward leads the ICR's lung cancer group, which works on improving early detection of lung cancer when they can still be cured surgically.

Professor Julian Downward