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Stephenson Cancer Researcher Awarded Grant to Explore New Lung Cancer Treatment Strategy

Akhil Srivastava, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of pathology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, was recently awarded a highly competitive federal research grant to study lung cancer among veterans and those currently serving in the military.

Lung cancer is the second leading cancer diagnosis among men and women, and also a leading cause of cancer-related death. As one of the most widespread illnesses among veterans and those serving in the military, averaging a 25-43 percent higher incidence rate than the national average, the cause is linked to increased exposure to a variety of carcinogens, pollution and higher tobacco use.

Working closely with researchers at the Stephenson Cancer Center, Srivastava’s research seeks to implement a therapeutic system that combines nanotechnology with exosomes to deliver a more individualized treatment for patients. Exosomes are small nano-sized, fluid-filled cavities containing DNA that can cross biological membrane barriers to more precisely deliver medicine throughout the body to different tumor sites.

“This proposed therapeutic system will help clinicians diagnose, optimize a more precise treatment regimen and monitor the response of treatment in lung cancer patients,” said Srivastava.

Since lung cancer symptoms may not appear until advanced stages of the disease, early detection can result in more successful treatment and outcomes. Srivastava hopes that this research study will help alleviate physical, psychological, social and economic distress on veterans, those who are currently active duty, and their families.

“Late diagnosis and the absence of an effective therapeutic regimen can limit cancer care,” said Srivastava. “However, a more developed therapeutic system with better imaging and efficient drug delivery capabilities could revolutionize the precision-based medicine approach to cancer treatment.”

This grant was awarded by the Department of Defense’s Office of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) Lung Cancer Research Program. The Department of Defense supports high-quality medical research through the Office of Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. This office funds research in breast, prostate and ovarian cancers, as well as neurofibromatosis, military health, and other specified areas.

Srivastava’s research is being conducted in the lab of Rajagopal Ramesh, PhD, the Jim and Christy Everest Endowed Chair in Cancer Developmental Therapeutics at the OU Health Sciences Center. Srivastava earned his PhD from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.