Dr. Christine Lovly, Hematology and Oncology Photos by : Susan Urmy
Big Ideas

Christine Lovly, M.D., Ph.D.

Sometimes, to the average Joe, science words sound boring or complicated. Fusion, fission, atoms, molecules, beakers and elements. We had to know about those things to get out of 11th grade, but after that, a lot of us set on a path to somewhere else. I never learned why aspirin makes a headache go away. And I don’t know how chemotherapy works against cancer … other than it destroys almost every living thing in its way.

There are people who didn’t find that list of science terms boring. They stayed after class and learned more. They entered competitions, built amazing models and were at the top of their class. They’ve gone on to make great discoveries, including how cancer begins, spreads and evades treatment. They want to beat cancer at its core and are pushing on for even more success. Those are the cancer researchers the V Foundation funds with your donations.

Christine Lovly, M.D., Ph.D., was encouraged by a high school chemistry teacher to attend a summer research science program at a cancer center. According to her, it was a game changer.

“I knew then that I wanted to be a physician and a scientist, someone who could connect the languages of science and medicine to help make better cancer therapies,” she said.

Lovly received V Foundation funding in 2015 to study a mutation seen first in lung cancer and then in brain cancers. She is diving into the DNA of tumors to learn more about what makes them grow and spread. Through her work, she will see if different cancers with the same mutation can be treated effectively with the same therapies. Her studies will be immediately translatable to the clinical setting.

Lovly has tremendous passion for helping patients, and she believes that in continued research and collaboration lie the answers to stopping cancers.

“We need research to continue to advance our therapies and obtain better outcomes for all cancer patients. Our goal is to implement precision medicine for all patients,” she explained.

Precision medicine means that instead of one treatment for all cancer patients with the same type of cancer (lung cancer, breast cancer, etc.), physicians test the tumor DNA and tailor treatment according to what is found in the genetic material.

“With precision medicine, we select treatment based on what we find in the DNA. But sometimes we find mutations in the DNA that we are not certain how to treat because there are no data about these mutations,” Lovly said.

Lovly illustrated her work with an example of a 33-year-old lung cancer patient. His disease had a novel mutation. It was similar to previously seen lung cancer mutations, and this gave them a starting point. She and her team built models in the lab to determine the best treatment for this patient. Lovly needed evidence to support which drug would be most effective therapy.

Lovly has tremendous passion for helping patients, and she believes that in continued research and collaboration lie the answers to stopping cancers.

She was able to propose a therapy based on his tumor’s DNA, and the patient responded. The mutation seen in this patient has also been identified now in other patients with lung cancer and also brain cancer. Lovly’s work will continue to look deeper into this particular mutation and find the best therapy against it, regardless of where the cancer is located in the body.

100% of direct donations to the V Foundation go toward funding scientists like Lovly. A commitment to medicine and science that began as a teenager has fueled her determination. As she gains more understanding of cancer’s genetic make-up, she can refine precision medicine for patients with different kinds of cancer. The result could mean more treatment options for those living with cancer.