Foundation awards $1.8 million in research grants to 11 investigators

NEW YORK, November 18, 2021

Today, the Lung Cancer Research Foundation® (LCRF) announced the awardees of its 2021 Scientific Grant Program during its Evening of Innovation Virtual Celebration, emceed by Dave Bjork, who created and hosts the podcast The Research Evangelist.

LCRF awarded $1.8 million dollars in research grants to 11 investigators whose projects show promise to make a sustained and lasting impact on the field of lung cancer research and lung cancer outcomes. These grants are made possible, in part, by support from Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis, Genentech, Lilly Oncology, the Thomas G. Labrecque Foundation, the EGFR Resisters and donations from LCRF’s many supporters. In addition to its annual pilot grants, LCRF awarded research grants focused on overcoming disparities in lung cancer, and, in partnership with AstraZeneca, awarded grants focused on understanding resistance to epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR TKIs) and immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), including therapeutic approaches to overcome these mechanisms.

“We are thrilled to give these awards to such committed researchers,” said Reina Honts, Chair of LCRF’s Board of Directors. “These grants address the areas of most need to move the science forward and improve the lives of people living with lung cancer. LCRF is committed to funding work that explores novel approaches to treatment, improves equity in lung cancer, as well as science that directly addresses acquired resistance to treatment. It is through these research grants that LCRF can have the most impact on lung cancer community. We’re excited to follow these investigators as they pursue their projects.”

“As a lung cancer researcher and former LCRF grantee, I know first-hand the importance and impact LCRF’s funding has on the careers of junior scientists,” said Katerina Politi, PhD, Chair of LCRF’s Scientific Advisory Board and Cancer Biologist and Associate Professor at Yale’s School of Medicine. “By supporting investigators so that they can pursue their innovative work, we are nurturing the immediate output of that work and of the work that comes afterwards, which collectively leads to significant breakthroughs. This is the science that is driving the technological and therapeutic advances that we hear about today.”

Through its annual Pilot Grant Program, LCRF funds innovative research focused on the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure of lung cancer. This year, LCRF will be funding four projects through this mechanism. The James B. Dougherty, MD Award for Scientific Merit is presented to the investigator whose proposal was selected for outstanding overall merit by the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board. This year’s recipient is Nikhil S. Joshi, PhD, Assistant Professor, Immunology at Yale University. Dr. Joshi’s research project is titled, “Manipulating the functions of T cells in lung tumor draining lymph nodes.”

“I’m truly excited and honored to receive this James B. Dougherty, MD Award for Scientific Merit,” said Dr. Joshi. “This award will enable us to focus on two things: how to make T-cells go out of the lymph node gland and into the tumor, and then figure out how to kill the cancer cells once they get there. I am grateful for the support of the LCRF that will help us take on this challenge.”

LCRF’s other funding mechanism focuses on overcoming disparities in lung cancer, supported in part by a grant from Bristol Myers Squibb. This year, LCRF will be funding two projects in this area that will address important questions across the care continuum and ultimately help to understand and overcome the significant gaps in health equity among lung cancer patients.

LCRF’s William C. Rippe Award for Distinguished Research in Lung Cancer is presented to the investigator whose proposal not only demonstrated exceptional scientific merit but also exemplified an enduring commitment to making an impact in the field of lung cancer research. This year’s recipient is Loretta Erhunmwumsee, MD, Assistant Professor, Division of Thoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery; Assistant Professor, Division of Health Equities, Department of Population Sciences at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center. The title of Dr. Erhunmwunsee’s research project is “Using Social Determinants of Health to Predict Adherence of Lung Cancer Screening in Minority High-Risk Smokers.”

“I am honored to receive the William C. Rippe Award for Distinguished Research in Lung Cancer from the Lung Cancer Research Foundation. I am floored by this recognition,” said Dr. Erhunmwunsee. “I am hopeful that we truly are prioritizing the vulnerable and this award will allow us to do that. The project will allow us to really understand the impact of different social determinants on the vulnerable and minority communities and their adherence to lung cancer screening. I am so grateful for this opportunity, and excited to be part of this prestigious group.”

The LCRF-AstraZeneca partnership grant track, focused on resistance to targeted therapies and immunotherapies, awarded five grants, totaling $900,000 in funding over two years.

In addition to the presentation of the 2021 Scientific Grant Program awards, LCRF’s Evening of Innovation Virtual Celebration included remarks from LCRF’s Scientific Advisory Board Chair, Dr. Katerina Politi, on the impact of the research that LCRF supports, as well as several prior grantees who shared their motivation for this field of research, led off by LCRF Board of Directors Vice-Chair, Dr. Brendon Stiles. Lung cancer patients and founders of the advocacy group, EGFR Resisters, Jill Feldman and Ivy Elkins, shared their personal journeys, and we heard from Dr. Matthew Meyerson, who discussed his past and current research focused on oncogenic mutations. LCRF’s Board Chair, Reina Honts, led attendees in a moment of silence to honor loved ones lost to lung cancer before sharing the hope that research brings to survivors like her. The program closed with a special appearance by the grandson of Olympic-great Jesse Owens, Stuart Owen Rankin, with his message of hope for people with lung cancer because of the research and investigators funded by LCRF. The program was recorded and can be viewed at

Congratulations to our grant recipients

The 2021 Pilot Grant Program award recipients include:

Nikhil S. Joshi, PhD
2021 James B. Dougherty, MD Award recipient
Yale University
Manipulating the functions of T cells in lung tumor draining lymph nodes

Yang Tian, PhD
EGFR Resisters grant recipient
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Targeting lung lineage plasticity to suppress Osimertinib-induced drug-tolerant persisters

Joshua Veatch, MD, PhD
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Using CD4+ T cells to target the tumor microenvironment in non-small cell lung cancer

Aria Vaishnavi, PhD
University of Utah
Elucidating the molecular mechanisms of radon-induced lung cancer through a novel mouse model

The 2021 Disparities in Lung Cancer Research Grant Program award recipients include:

Loretta Erhunmwunsee, MD
William C. Rippe Award recipient
City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center
Using social determinants of health to predict adherence of lung cancer screening in minority high-risk smokers

Mariam Jamal-Hanjani, MD, PhD
University College London Cancer Institute
Investigating the association between air pollution and EGFR mutant never-smoker lung cancer

The 2021 LCRF-AstraZeneca Resistance Grant award recipients include:

Justin Jee, MD, PhD
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Subclone capture sequencing to guide combination therapy and improve osimertinib response

Lingtao Jin, PhD
University of Florida
Targeting tumor-immune microenvironment to improve durvalumab efficacy in small cell lung cancer

Giorgia Foggetti, PhD
Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele
Dissecting the role of the KEAP1 pathway in mediating therapeutic sensitivity in EGFR-driven lung adenocarcinoma

Lior Golomb, PhD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Investigating the ER Acetyl-CoA transporter as a putative metabolic dependency of mutant EGFR lung cancer

Antja-Voy Hartley, PhD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Targeting YAP/TEAD bypass activation in Osimertinib-induced drug tolerant cells: a strategy to overcoming tumor recurrence and therapeutic resistance in EGFR-mutant non-small cell lung cancers

For more information about LCRF and the Scientific Grant Program, visit


About the Lung Cancer Research Foundation

The Lung Cancer Research Foundation® (LCRF) is the leading nonprofit organization focused on funding innovative, high-reward research with the potential to extend survival and improve quality of life for people with lung cancer. LCRF’s mission is to improve lung cancer outcomes by funding research for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure of lung cancer. To date, LCRF has funded 394 research grants, totaling nearly $39 million, the highest amount provided by a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding lung cancer research. For more information, visit

Sheila Sullivan
Sr. Director, Marketing and Communications