Reasons to Breathe Easier
About Lung Cancer

At the EVMS Leroy T. Canoles Jr. Cancer Research Center, our researchers are seeking molecular clues that will help identify those most at risk for lung cancer, as well as improve diagnosis, treatment and outcomes. We’ve made great strides over the last few years, and in the near future, the results of our research will enable earlier detection and more effective treatment for lung cancer patients.

It can’t happen soon enough, because with a five-year survival rate of 50 percent for lung cancers diagnosed in their earliest stages, time is of the essence. In the United States and Virginia, lung cancer has a higher mortality rate than the next three most common cancers combined — colon, prostate and breast cancers. It’s the second most commonly diagnosed cancer, accounting for 14 percent of all new cases and 27 percent of all cancer deaths.

  • Men in Virginia, especially black men, have higher rates than women of being diagnosed with and dying from lung cancer.
  • In Virginia, only 18 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at the earliest, most curable stage.


Research at the EVMS Leroy T. Canoles Jr. Cancer Research Center focuses on the gene that most often mutates to cause lung cancer, TTF-1. This will help identify people most at risk for developing lung cancer — whether they smoke or not — and will help develop patient-specific treatment based on the individual’s biomarkers.

Current projects include:

  • Exploring the relationship between dietary cholesterol and lung cancer
  • Probing the contribution of fat cells to lung cancer
  • Studying how lung cancer cells communicate during tumor development
  • Using proteomics to uncover all the molecular changes that occur during lung cancer development
  • Investigating the use of small RNA molecules as lung cancer therapeutics 

Successes include:

  • Discovered TTF-1 as a gene, whose mutation is frequently associated with lung cancer
  • Discovered a critical role for small RNA as regulators of TTF-1 function
  • Uncovered a possible relationship between lung cancer and cholesterol metabolism
  • Discovered a link between cholesterol-lowering statins and TTF-1-driven lung cancer 


The dedicated scientists at the EVMS Leroy T. Canoles Jr. Cancer Research Center are collaborating with colleagues across the country to find better ways to diagnose, treat and prevent recurrence of lung cancer. In addition, they work with regional clinicians to collect data that will improve outcomes for people fighting lung cancer right here in Hampton Roads. Our team of lab researchers, surgeons, pathologists and radiologists hold advanced degrees from the University of California at Berkeley, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Penn State University and Johns Hopkins. Their lung-cancer research is supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the American Lung Association. 

“Lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer death for both MEN and women . Clearly, we need to do more to meet the medical needs of these patients .”

David Mu, PhD
Associate Professor
Microbiology and Molecular Cell Biology
Eastern Virginia Medical School


Support EVMS in the fight against lung cancer, and you’ll help save the lives of family, neighbors and friends here in Hampton Roads. And you’ll give hope to lung cancer patients around the world.

To learn how you can make a difference in the fight against lung cancer, visit or call the EVMS Office of Development at 757.965.8500.