Dr. Animesh Ray
Dr. Animesh Ray

Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) Professor Animesh Ray’s research titled, “A novel approach to understand and prevent the evolution of drug resistant lung cancer cells: A feasibility study,” on lung cancer drug resistance was recently approved by the Department of Defense.

The Indian America professor’s research will focus on lung cancer drug resistance and aims to examine the emergence of therapy resistant forms of lung cancer using state-of-the-art advances in genomic technology.

According to a KGI news release, the re-emergence of drug resistant lung cancers in patients who initially responded to the therapy is a major cause of death. And while many lung cancer patients who exhibit the spread of cancer to other parts of the body do respond well to treatment with anti-cancer drugs, it has been documented that the cancer can return aggressively, having developed resistance to the drugs used to treat the original cancers.

“When lung cancers are targeted with an anti-cancer drug, the genome of the cancer cells, due to their robustness, can find ways to become resistant to drugs,” Ray said in a statement. “The current research proposal aims to use next-generation DNA sequence technology coupled with CRISPR technology to address this problem.”

“The hope is that this preliminary work will help discover a new approach to prevent the appearance of relapsed drug resistant cancer,” added Ray.

The study intends to target and prevent the adaptation of cancer cells to drugs, ultimately hoping to undercut the major factor for death related to lung cancer.

It will include the use of a recently developed genome-wide gene-targeting technology coupled with massively parallel DNA sequencing, followed by computational modeling.

Should Ray’s research result in success, it would benefit patients who have been treated for metastatic lung cancers and who are the among the most vulnerable lung cancer patients to succumb to the disease.

Ray believes that successful research could lead to a new paradigm of cancer treatment, in which a novel class of drugs with relatively low toxicity can be developed, according to the KGI news release. The drugs, additionally, are expected to be less toxic than current anti-cancer drugs, it added.

Ray, who is on sabbatical leave from KGI and serving as a visiting faculty member at Caltech, has been a professor at the institute for 15 years. He has also had teaching stints at U.C. San Diego, the University of Rochester and the Institute for Systems Biology.

A graduate of Presidency College, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Monash University, earning a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate, respectively, as well as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oregon and MIT, Ray developed his idea following a previous study on a National Science Foundation-funded research project.

The U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity, 820 Chandler Street, Fort Detrick MD 21702-5014 is the awarding and administering acquisition office. This work was supported by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, through the Lung Cancer Research Program under Award No. W81XWH-16-1-0170.