Home » UofL scientist receives $6.7 million to learn how metals cause lung cancer

UofL scientist receives $6.7 million to learn how metals cause lung cancer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., and Kentucky has the highest rates of lung cancer incidence and mortality of any state. Despite the widely held perception that lung cancer is simply attributed to smoking, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 12 men who develop lung cancer never smoked. In addition to high rates of cancer, lung cancer has a five-year survival rate of 21%, one of the lowest of any cancer site.

Metals are some of the top environmental causes of human lung cancer, but scientists do not fully understand how metals cause cancer. Wise’s research has shown that one such metal, hexavalent chromium, causes chromosome instability, in which the chromosomes are increased, deleted or rearranged in inappropriate ways. This chromosome instability can lead to the development of cancer.

The research will include laboratory studies and then translate those findings to wildlife and human populations of workers exposed to metals. In addition to Wise, project researchers include KeJian Liu of the University of New Mexico, who will lead lab studies and Tongzhang Zeng of Brown University, who will lead work with human populations. Doctoral students in Wise’s lab and UofL faculty members Sandra Wise, Michael Merchant and Matt Cave also will participate, along with additional researchers in the U.S., Germany, China and Japan.

“UofL is one of the top institutions in the country in research and discovery for how human health is influenced by our environment, and preeminent researchers like Dr. Wise are the reason,” said Kevin Gardner, UofL executive vice president of research and innovation. “This grant is recognition of the incredible contributions Dr. Wise has made to the field and provides ongoing support for continued discovery for years to come.”

RIVER grants are awarded to select investigators who have shown a broad vision and potential for impactful research. They allow the investigator increased flexibility and the freedom to set specific research goals toward a given objective, adjusting the research based on new findings, without seeking new funding. Cave received a RIVER grant in 2017 to conduct research into the effects of environmental exposures on fatty liver disease.

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