Lung Cancer

Lung tumors arise from tissues lining the lung and bronchial passages. While cigarette smoking is best known as a cause of lung cancer, the disease can also arise in people who have never smoked. Cases of lung cancer have declined over the last few decades. However, the disease remains the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.

There are two main types of lung cancer, small-cell lung cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer. Non-small-cell lung cancers are most common, making up about 85 percent of cases. Squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large-cell carcinoma are all varieties of non-small-cell lung cancer. Small-cell lung cancer, the more aggressive type, makes up about 15 percent of lung cancer cases. About 5 percent of lung tumors are lung carcinoid tumors, a rare and usually slow-growing form of the disease.

Our scientists study the genetic alterations that drive lung cancer development and the factors that shape lung cancer risk. They also study how the constellation of noncancerous cells surrounding the tumor may influence its progression. Our researchers seek to develop improved therapies for this disease and run clinical trials aimed at improving treatment. 

Researchers and Patient Treatments

Dr. McGarry Houghton

Our Lung Cancer Researchers

Our interdisciplinary scientists and clinicians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat lung cancer as well as other cancers and diseases.

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Patient Treatment & Care

At Fred Hutch, our interdisciplinary teams work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our aim is to provide patients access to advanced treatment options while getting the best cancer care.

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Selected Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

Clinical research is an essential part of the scientific process that leads to new treatments and better care. Clinical trials can also be a way for patients to get early access to new cutting-edge therapies. Our clinical research teams are running clinical studies various kinds of lung cancers.

Non-Small Cell

Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer. It accounts for nearly nine out of every 10 cases, and usually grows at a slower rate than small cell lung cancer. Most often, it develops slowly and causes few or no symptoms until it has advanced.

Non-Small Cell Clinical Trials

Small Cell

Small cell lung cancer is also known as “oat-cell” cancer because the cells look like oats under the microscope. It often starts in the bronchi, then quickly grows and spread to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes. This type of lung cancer represents fewer than 20 percent of lung cancers and is typically caused by tobacco smoking. It is also the most aggressive form of lung cancer.

Small Cell Clinical Trials

See all Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

Lung Cancer Research

Lung cancer research at Fred Hutch spans fundamental studies of the gene changes that drive the disease and large-scale population studies that seek to understand why it develops in some people but not others.

Lung Cancer Risk

Though smoking is perhaps the most well-known risk factor for lung cancer, not everyone who smokes will develop lung cancer. And people who have never smoked make up a growing percentage of those diagnosed with lung cancer. Our scientists study the differences in lung tumors in these two populations to seek unique drug targets in each type of tumor. We also perform large-scale population-based studies to better understand why smoking predisposes only some people to lung cancer. Such studies could improve our understanding of who is most at risk of lung cancer and help doctors improve screening strategies.


Cancer cells are surrounded by noncancerous cells. Many of these can influence tumor cells’ growth, invasiveness and ability to metastasize, or leave the original tumor and initiate new tumors elsewhere. Our investigators study these nontumor cells and how they interact with lung tumor cells. In particular, Our scientists focus on cells from the immune system. Insights from these studies could point to new therapeutic targets or ways to harness the immune system itself to target lung cancer. Our scientists also carry out clinical trials of immunotherapy strategies against lung cancer.

New Drug Targets

Understanding the inner workings of cancer cells can help researchers discover new drug targets. Our scientists work to pinpoint the critical genetic changes that promote lung cancer and translate these insights into targeted therapies for patients’ individual tumors.

Active Projects

Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial (CARET)

Public Health Sciences, Cancer Prevention

Researchers tested the efficacy and safety of beta-carotene and retinyl palmitate in people at high risk for lung cancer in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Active follow-up of trial. participants ended on June of 2005; however, the program continues to support the extensive biological repository and ancillary studies that use CARET samples and data.

Funding Agency: National Cancer Institute

Contact: Jackie Dahlgren,

Coordinating Center for the Population-based Research to Optimize the Screening PRocess (PROSPR) Consortium

Public Health Sciences, Epidemiology

Building on the success of PROSPR I, PROSPR II investigators from a variety of disciplines and institutions are conducting research to improve the screening of cervical, colorectal, and lung cancers.

Funding Agency: National Cancer Institute

Contact: Marty Stiller,

Infrastructure Support and Pilot Tissue Collection for the CARET Biorepository

Public Health Sciences, Epidemiology

Researchers are collecting plasma and DNA samples from participants that are high risk for lung cancer. This 20 year collection includes the following information: demographic, lifestyle, nutrition, cancer incidence, survival, and cause of death. This specimen bank enables research on molecular, genetic, and nutritional epidemiology, early detection, diagnosis, and prognosis of the common cancers in both men and women.

Funding Agency: National Cancer Institute

Contact: Chu Chen,

Integrative Analysis of Lung Cancer Etiology and Risk – Biomarkers of Lung Cancer Risk (LC3-II)

Public Health Sciences, Epidemiology

In an effort to evaluate, identify, predict biomarkers of lung cancer risk, scientists will bring together data from ongoing biomarker studies and conducting de novo laboratory analyses of a comprehensive panel of promising risk biomarkers within the Lung Cancer Cohort Consortium (LC3).

Funding Agency: National Cancer Institute

Contact: Chu Chen,

Latest Lung Cancer News

Making immunotherapy more effective against small cell lung cancer Human trial opens after experimental drug improves tumor growth suppression in mice August 3, 2022
Science Says: The promise of precision medicine How understanding unique traits of individuals and their cancers can lead to precise treatments May 27, 2022
Science Says: Cracking the code in solid tumors How scientists are developing targeted new therapies for cancers of the breast, lung, stomach and more October 13, 2021
Seeking to expand targeted therapy for lung cancer NIH MERIT Award will support Dr. Alice Berger’s efforts to target lung cancer-associated gene mutation August 9, 2021