Lung Cancer - Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Diseases / Research

Lung Cancer

Small cell carcinoma of the lung

Small-cell carcinoma cells form a tumor that is stained blue and surrounded by purple-stained normal lung tissue.

Photo by Fred Hutch Experimental Histopathology

Click for high-res version

Fred Hutch is pursuing new tests and techniques that could revolutionize how we prevent, detect and treat lung cancer. 

Hutch studies have addressed lifestyle factors, such as smoking and exercise, on lung cancer risk and ways to reduce teen smoking.  Our researchers discovered blood proteins that could lead to a blood test to detect lung cancer early.

Fast Facts

  • Lung cancer ranks as the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. It is also one of the most common cancers in the world. The majority of lung cancers are related to smoking.

  • There are two major types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer and small-cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer, which has three subtypes, is the most common form. Small-cell lung cancer, sometimes called oat-cell cancer, is less common and tends to spread quickly to other body organs early in the disease. Each type is treated differently.

[back to top]

Prevention & Causes

Fred Hutch researchers are developing innovative ways to prevent smoking and lung cancer:

Combining cutting-edge psychology and technology - Combining cutting-edge psychology and technology – Fred Hutch scientist Dr. Jonathan Bricker conducts clinical trials to help people stop smoking, which is the leading cause of lung cancer. With more than $14 million in NIH funding, Bricker and his team are testing innovative smoking cessation programs on multiple platforms, including telephone coaching, smartphone apps and websites. His latest innovation is the first quit-smoking app tested in a clinical trial, which helps users develop a quit plan, learn new skills to cope with cravings, and stay on track. Bricker is also currently conducting a clinical trial, WebQuit, to test the effectiveness of two web-delivered approaches to smoking cessation.   Learn more >

Linking exercise and lung cancer risk – Our researchers have found that heavy smokers may reduce their cancer risk by increasing their exercise. Learn more >

Reducing teen smoking – Hutch researchers demonstrated that it's possible to use telephone counseling and other innovative measures to help adolescent smokers give up the habit. Learn more >

Using schools to study smoking – Our researchers led the 15-year Hutchinson Smoking Prevention Project, a school-based smoking prevention effort that touched 8,400 students and 600 teachers. The project found strong links between smoking in parents and their children. It also found that parents who quit smoking before their child reaches third grade will significantly reduce the child's odds of smoking. Learn more >


[back to top]

Detection & Diagnosis

Fred Hutch's lung cancer experts are taking key step towards blood tests that detect lung cancer in its earliest stages:

Finding proteins that indicate lung cancer - Hutch researchers led a team that discovered proteins in the blood associated with early lung cancer development. The advance brings us closer to a blood test to detect lung cancer. Learn more >

Detecting lung cancer in non-smokers - Fred Hutch researchers are leading an effort to discover early indicators of lung cancer in people who have never smoked. The studies are designed to improve understanding of lung cancer's biology and to develop a test to detect early-stage lung cancer. This work is important because global estimates suggest that as many as 25 percent of all lung cancers worldwide—15 percent of those in men and 50 percent of those in women—are not attributable to smoking. Learn more >


[back to top]

Treatment & Prognosis

Designing immune-based therapeutic strategies – Dr. McGarry Houghton is conducting research to identify immune cells that suppress non-small cell lung cancer. These efforts are directed at developing immune-based therapies using a patient’s own tumor infiltrating lympohocytes extracted from their lung cancer tissue, expanding them in the laboratory and then re-infusing a subset of cells with tumor-killing potential back into a patient. Learn more >

Developing innovative surgical approaches - Dr. Michael Mulligan and his colleagues at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the Hutch's treatment arm, have developed a minimally invasive technique known as video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS). Well suited for removing early stage lung cancer, the procedure works by inserting a tiny camera through a millimeters-long incision. This allows the surgeon to see inside a patient's chest and operate without the same impact to surrounding tissue that a traditional, open-chest procedure requires. Learn more >

Understanding why some cells make tumors grow faster – Studies conducted by Dr. McGarry Houghton to understand the role inflammatory cells in diseases such as lung cancer, COPD/emphysema, acute lung injury, pulmonary infections and pulmonary fibrosis led to investigating why some non-cancerous cells in and around tumors actually make the tumors grow faster.  Learn more >

Identifying cells that keep the immune system from destroying tumors - Neutrophils, one of the most abundant white blood cells, are an essential part of the innate immune system. Dr. McGarry Hougton and colleagues are conducting studies to determine how neutrophil elastase (the most potent neutrophil proteinase) promotes tumor progression. Learn more >

[back to top]

Make an Appointment

Patients have access to cancer treatment developed by Fred Hutch at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, our clinical care partner.

Find a Trial

Clinical trials are vital to the development of innovative treatments for cancer and other related diseases.

Share Your Story

To help build community we are collecting first-person stories from those affected by cancer or related diseases.  Every story matters. Tell us your story so we can share it.

Volunteer for a Study

Volunteers play a key role in prevention and early detection research.


Support our quest for cures

Related Stories