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CVM’s Adler Receives Lung Cancer Research Award

Kenneth Adler, a professor of cell biology at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, is the recipient of the Vicky Amidon Innovation in Lung Cancer Research Award from the Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina.

The grant supports Adler’s groundbreaking work at the CVM to better understand and more effectively fight lung cancer, which kills around 143,000 people a year in the United States. The award helps fund Adler’s research focused on halting tumor growth and metastasis in animals and humans with advanced lung cancer.

Adler’s research centers on a protein he identified, MARCKS, which dictates cell shape and mobility and is overactive in those with lung cancer. Suppressing MARCKS could be key to also suppressing lung cancer’s impact. Understanding why cancer cells allow MARCKS infiltration may lead to new targets for therapies, said Adler.

Adler’s winning research proposal will study new MARCKS-targeting drugs that could be even more effective cancer fighters. A cancer drug developed by Adler that targets MARCKS has shown promising results in mice.

In 2017, UNC-TV’s “NC Now” showcased Adler’s work on the drug. According to the Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina, a nonprofit supporting lung cancer research and education in the state, an estimated 8,010 North Carolinians were diagnosed with the disease this year. It is the leading cause of cancer death in men and women, according to the American Cancer Society, killing more people each year than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined.

Hongwei Du, of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine and Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, was also awarded the grant.

For more than 30 years at the CVM, Adler’s research has shed ever-brightening light on airway diseases. MARCKS, an acronym for Myristoylated Alanine-Rich C Kinase Substrate, also impacts inflammation in diseased lung and airway tissues. Successfully stopping the protein would help many with common and devastating diseases such as chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. In 2002, Adler co-founded BioMarck Pharmaceuticals to explore the potential of his MARCKS findings.

Adler has received numerous honors for his work while at the CVM, including a MERIT Award from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the O. Max Gardner Award, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ highest faculty honor.

~Jordan Bartel/NC State Veterinary Medicine