Yang Tian, PhD, a researcher in the Watanabe Laboratary at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, recently presented the results of her research in a video chat with the EGFR Resisters community. Dr. Tian received a 2021 Lung Cancer Research Foundation Pilot Grant, which was funded jointly by the EGFR Resisters and LCRF. 

About her research

Dr. Tian’s research aims to identify cancer cells that persist after treatment with osimertinib. These cells are called drug tolerant persisters or DTPs. She found that these cells emerge very early after treatment and cause the lung cancer to become tolerant or resistant to osimertinib. 

Two markers (H3K27me3 and H3K27ac) appear to regulate the development of DTPs and may be targets for future treatment. From a library of drugs, she identified several that may work with osimertinib to overcome these resistant cells.  Though this work is early science, Dr. Tian’s plan is to continue to study these drugs in cancer cell cultures and tumor-bearing mice – a necessary step before these drugs can be tested in patients. 

Dr. Tian also is studying a biomarker for the development of DTPs, so these cells can be found out before treatment begins. She plans to investigate whether there are other potential targets for treatment.

Why it’s important

Understanding why and how resistant cancer cells develop is a crucial first step in developing clinical strategies to overcome resistance. The more we know regarding how to tackle drug-resistant cancer, the more likely we are to develop curative treatment down the line. 

The good news is that Dr. Tian is making progress, and the hope is that patients will see a benefit in the near future. 

Clockwise from top left: Ivy Elkins, EGFR Resisters; Yang Tian, PhD; Hideo Watanabe, MD, PhD; Jill Feldman, EGFR Resisters