Dr. Huihua Li Awarded Lung Cancer Research Fellowship

The Lung Cancer Initiative (LCI) has awarded Assistant Professor of Pathology Huihua Li, MD, PhD, a 2024 Research Fellowship in the amount $24,999 for his study titled "CXCR2 Expression in Lung Neuroendocrine Neoplasms."

The fellowship will be funded for one year beginning July 1st, 2024. The LCI fellowship is provided for applicants pursuing a career in lung cancer research, diagnosis, treatment, and/or care. As a mentored award, the research project is conducted under the guidance of a scientific mentor. Elizabeth Pavlisko, MD, director of Duke’s Division of Anatomic Pathology and Digital Analytics (DAPDA) Laboratory will be Li’s mentor.

The incidences of lung neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) have been increasing in recent years, which account for 1%-3% of all lung malignancies. Lung NENs range from low-grade neuroendocrine tumors (typical carcinoid), to intermediate grade (atypical carcinoid), to aggressive high-grade neuroendocrine carcinomas (small cell and large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma).

CXCR2 is a G protein-coupled receptor for the angiogenic CXC chemokine family members, which play crucial roles in processes like tumor growth angiogenesis. It is also involved with leukocyte chemotaxis and inflammatory responses. A recent study showed that CXCR2 is expressed in neuroendocrine cells of neuroendocrine prostate cancer, and simultaneous inhibition of CXCR2 and androgen receptor could significantly decrease tumor growth and induce apoptosis in neuroendocrine-like xenografts in vivo. The expression level and functional roles of CXCR2 in lung neuroendocrine neoplasms have not been previously studied.

Li’s study will focus on determining the expression levels of CXCR2 in lung NENs, including carcinoid tumor (typical and atypical) and neuroendocrine carcinomas (small cell and large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma). He hopes to develop a new marker (CXCR2) to distinguish carcinoid tumors with high proliferative rate from small cell carcinoma in the lung and to find a potential treatment target in lung NENs. His study will also investigate the prognostic value of CXCR2 in lung neuroendocrine neoplasms.

Li joined Duke Pathology’s  Cardiovascular and Pulmonary/Thoracic Divisions in July 2023. He completed his combined Anatomic and Clinical Pathology (AP/CP) residency training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, followed by a thoracic pathology fellowship at the University of Chicago. He is board certified in AP/CP. His academic interests include immunotherapy and tumor microenvironment in mesothelioma, lung neoplasms and non-neoplastic lung diseases. 

As a leading non-profit organization supporting lung cancer research, education, and access to critical care and treatment, LCI connects patients, survivors, and loved ones with the medical and research community. Its research program fosters the development of local lung cancer care and research programs across the state, and encourages continuing involvement in the field of lung cancer. Since 2008, LCI has funded more than $3 million in lung cancer research