$1.8M Grant Enables Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Scientist to Explore Role of Protein in Lung Cancer Development

November 18, 2014

Sharon R. Pine, PhDNew Brunswick, N.J. – A protein associated with poor survival in lung cancer patients will be further explored by investigators at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey to uncover its role in lung cancer development and metastasis. A recently-awarded $1.8 million grant (R01CA190578) from the National Institutes of Health to Cancer Institute of New Jersey researcher Sharon R. Pine, PhD, will support the work.  

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer accounts for more deaths than any other cancer in both men and women.  More than 159,000 lung cancer deaths are expected in the U.S. and nearly 4,000 in New Jersey by year’s end.  A previous study of the disease by Dr. Pine and colleagues (presented at the 2014 American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting and supported by National Cancer Institute Career Development Grant K22CA140719) identified the Sox9 protein as a key transcription factor that controls when genes are turned on and off, which could lead to the development of lung cancer metastasis.  Sox9 is overproduced in a number of cancers, including lung.  Their work also showed that overproduction of Sox9 is regulated by two key cell-to-cell messaging pathways known as Notch and TGF-β – making Sox9 a critical protein that carries out the malignant effects initiated by these signaling pathways.   

Pine and colleagues aim to build upon their previous findings, elucidating how Sox9 acts as a convergence ‘hub’ for multiple cancer pathways in lung cancer including Notch and TGF-β. They also will explore the direct role of Sox9 during lung cancer development and look to delineate how the genes regulated by the Sox9 transcription factor increase tumor progression. The development of a novel treatment to inhibit Sox9 in lung cancer cells also will be completed.

“By uncovering more about how Sox9 causes lung cancer growth and metastasis, we may be able to identify anti-cancer therapies that specifically target this protein.  Especially with our previous research confirming that Sox9 levels are higher in more than half of non-small cell lung cancers – the most common type of lung cancer – there is a large population of lung cancer patients that may benefit from such treatment,” notes Pine, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Cancer Institute Chief Scientific Officer Joseph R. Bertino, MD, who is also a university professor of medicine and pharmacology at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; and Cancer Institute Associate Member Samuel I. Gunderson, PhD, who is also an associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences, will collaborate with Pine on the research.  The grant will support the work through 2019. 

About Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey ( is the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. As part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey is dedicated to improving the detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and to serving as an education resource for cancer prevention. Physician-scientists at the Cancer Institute engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice, quite literally bringing research to life.  To make a tax-deductible gift to support the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, call 732-235-8614 or visit Follow us on Facebook at

The Cancer Institute of New Jersey Network is comprised of hospitals throughout the state and provides the highest quality cancer care and rapid dissemination of important discoveries into the community. Flagship Hospital: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. System Partner: Meridian Health (Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Ocean Medical Center, Riverview Medical Center, Southern Ocean Medical Center, and Bayshore Community Hospital). Major Clinical Research Affiliate Hospitals: Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Medical Center, Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical Center, and Cooper University Hospital. Affiliate Hospitals: JFK Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (CINJ Hamilton), Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset and University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro.

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