Steffen Sørensen, a medical fellow, is a recipient of the IASLC Lung Cancer Fellowship Award for 2014-2015 and will be studying under the mentorship of Assistant Professor Peter Meldgaard in the Department of Oncology at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark.
The title of Dr. Sørensen's project is Detection of tumor dynamics in patients with NSCLC by deep sequencing of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA). It is well established that both normal and cancer cells release genetic material (DNA) in the bloodstream and that cancer cell DNA contains numerous mutations, thus making it distinguishable from normal cell DNA. In this project he will identify, and create quantitative assays for, tumor-specific mutations in ctDNA using deep sequencing, follow the expression level and mutational characteristics of ctDNA during the periods of treatment with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and follow-up to see how the expression level and mutational characteristics change, and evaluate whether changes in ctDNA are more effective at identifying recurrent or progressive NSCLC compared to conventional radiological scans, which require tumors to be of sufficient size before that can be visualized.
This project will enable the measurement of NSCLC tumor dynamics in a "real-time" and relatively non-invasive manner by measuring tumor mutations in blood samples. Based on the quantitative changes in ctDNA, or lack thereof, patients could be identified as having an effective treatment or spared ineffective treatment and impending relapse or recurrence may be predicted earlier, thus allowing for quicker treatment decisions.
Lung cancer has been Dr. Sørensen's main focus since starting his oncology studies and he will pursue a career in translation lung cancer research. He notes that the IASLC award will establish the economic foundation to help realize his career goal and to perform the studies within his project.