Dr. Maximilian Diehn Receives LUNGevity’s 2023 Lung Cancer Early Detection Award

Research award supports work to find lung cancer earlier when it is most curable
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Linda Wenger
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WASHINGTON, DC (November 1, 2023) – LUNGevity Foundation, the nation’s leading lung cancer-focused nonprofit organization, is proud to announce Maximilian Diehn, MD, PhD, as the recipient of LUNGevity’s 2023 Lung Cancer Early Detection Award. Dr. Diehn’s work builds on LUNGevity’s 15-year focus on funding research into the early detection of lung cancer and continues its investment in developing a noninvasive blood test to detect lung cancer in its earliest stages. 

People with early-stage lung cancer typically do not have symptoms. By the time symptoms appear, the cancer has already advanced to a late stage and the treatments aim to extend the length and quality of life rather than cure the disease. “Only 25% of lung cancers are found when they are localized and can be treated with the intent to cure the cancer,” said Upal Basu Roy, PhD, MPH, executive director of research at LUNGevity. “By funding research into early detection technologies, we have the potential to dramatically transform the average prognosis for patients diagnosed with lung cancer by finding it earlier when it is most treatable.”

The 2023 Lung Cancer Early Detection Award recipient is: 

Maximilian Diehn, MD, PhD 
Stanford University
Integration of Liquid Biopsy Assays for the Early Detection of Lung Cancer 

Dr. Diehn and his team have already developed three different blood tests for the early detection of lung cancer. Each of these tests relies on a different property of the blood to detect lung cancer noninvasively without a biopsy. One test looks at somatic mutations, the genetic changes that occur in the body as a person ages. The second test relies on the methylation patterns of DNA in blood samples. The third test uses the fragments of cell-free DNA released by tumor cells into the blood.

This award will allow the researchers to study each of these tests to determine which test, or which combination of tests, provides patients with the most accurate diagnosis of early-stage lung cancer. If successful, this research could lay the groundwork for a blood test that could replace or complement low-dose CT scans, the current gold standard of lung cancer screening. 

Currently, patients at high risk for lung cancer may have the option of getting annual lung cancer screenings. Unfortunately, many healthcare providers and patients have not embraced annual lung cancer screening as part of their regular health regimen, resulting in only 5% of eligible patients in the US getting their annual lung cancer screening.

“This award program supports research to help us reimagine the early detection of lung cancer and make it easier for doctors to find lung cancer in earlier stages,” said Dr. Basu Roy. “By funding this project, we are fast-tracking the research to develop a quick and easy blood test to support the early detection of lung cancer and to help transform lung cancer into a disease that is routinely caught early and cured.”

LUNGevity’s 2023 Lung Cancer Early Detection Award is funded in partnership with Carla and Alan Braverman. 

About LUNGevity Foundation

LUNGevity, the nation’s leading lung cancer organization, is transforming what it means to be diagnosed and live with lung cancer. LUNGevity seeks to make an immediate impact on quality of life and survivorship for everyone touched by the disease—while promoting health equity by addressing disparities throughout the care continuum.

  • Through research, we use an innovative and holistic approach to finding lung cancer earlier when it is most treatable; advance research into new treatments so people may live longer and better; and ensure a diverse, vital pipeline of investigators for the future of the lung cancer field.
  • Through advocacy, we foster groundbreaking collaborations to ensure all people have access to screening, biomarker testing, and treatment breakthroughs.
  • Through community, we educate, support, and connect people affected by lung cancer so that they can get the best healthcare and live longer and better lives.

Comprehensive resources include a medically vetted and patient-centric website, Patient Gateways for specific types of lung cancer, a toll-free HELPLine for personalized support, international survivor conferences, and tools to find a clinical trial. All these programs are designed to help us achieve our vision—a world where no one dies of lung cancer. LUNGevity Foundation is proud to be a four-star Charity Navigator organization.

Please visit www.LUNGevity.org to learn more.   

About the LUNGevity Early Lung Cancer Center

In 2023, LUNGevity launched the LUNGevity Early Lung Cancer Center (ELCC). The ELCC is orchestrating a robust range of complex efforts focused on detecting, treating, and living with lung cancer at an early stage. More specifically, in addition to funding translational research and conducting patient-centered research, the LUNGevity ELCC’s charter includes acting on myriad policy-related issues, formulating a comprehensive plan for ensuring access to optimal care in vulnerable communities, and hosting a multi-stakeholder meeting that will foster collaboration among the foremost experts across the care continuum for early-stage disease in unprecedented ways.

About Lung Cancer in the US

  • About 1 in 16 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime.
  • More than 238,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year.
  • About 60%-65% of all new lung cancer diagnoses are among people who have never smoked or are former smokers.
  • Lung cancer takes more lives than the next three leading cancers (colorectal, breast, and prostate) combined.
  • Only 25% of all people diagnosed with lung cancer will survive 5 years or more, but if it’s caught before it spreads, the chance of 5-year survival improves dramatically.