Research Assistant Professor of Chemistry Receives $729K Grant for Lung Cancer Therapy Research
Rachid Skouta, UMass Amherst research assistant professor of chemistry, has received a scholar grant of $792,000 from the American Cancer Society (ACS). The grant will provide funding for Skouta’s lab for four years as he seeks “Identification of Ferroptosis Inducers Toward Better Anticancer Therapies.”
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the U.S., with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) representing more than 85% of cases. The predicted 5-year survival rate of patients with NSCLC is only about 16% due to a lack of understanding of the interactions between the tumor and drug resistance. Drug resistance in cancers including NSCLC is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., affecting 1.5 million people a year.
Most current cancer treatments focus on a form of cell death known as apoptosis, which is triggered by activating caspase enzymes in a cell. Because patients are prone to developing resistance to caspase-dependent apoptosis-based chemotherapy, researchers are working to develop better NSCLC treatments.
Skouta’s lab will focus on the ferroptosis cell death approach, which would be immune from the drug-resistance issues of apoptosis-based treatments and is also more precise, targeting only cancer cells. The researchers have identified a specific chemical that triggers ferroptosis cell death and will use the ACS grant to explore its efficacy as a targeted cancer treatment.
The lab’s initial work on this project was supported by an Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) Midigrant for early-stage translational projects through the Models to Medicine Center, with support from IALS venture development.