Lung Cancer - Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Diseases / Research

Lung Cancer Research

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

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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.

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Prevention & Causes

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

Combining cutting-edge psychology and technology to quit smoking- 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. Learn more >

Linking exercise and lung cancer risk – A new study involving nearly 1.5 million participants found that exercise  is associated with lower risk in a substantial number of cancers — including lung cancer. Learn more >

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Detection & Diagnosis

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

Repairing DNA damage - Dr, Chu Chen conducts  molecular epidemiology studies to understand the why some people do not develop cancer even though they who have lung damage due to smoking. Learn more >

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 >

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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 >

Identifying genes that drive cancer - Dr. David MacPherson investigate the mechanishsm that causes cancer mutated genes to cause tumor formation.  His work is focusing on small cell lung cancer, a highly aggressive neuroendocrine cancer.  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 >

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