A Message From An ABOH Researcher

A note from our 2020 A Breath of Hope Fellow and winner of the Katherine Bensen Hope Award – Dr. Esra Akbay of UTSW:

Dear Katherine Bensen and supporters of the A Breath of Lung Foundation,

I am incredibly humbled to have received the “Katherine Bensen Hope Award” for our studies regarding overcoming resistance to immune checkpoint blockade by targeting telomerase. We are very excited that we can now perform these important studies. This funding comes in a very difficult time where most agencies have reduced funding. Now is also a very critical time in my personal research career – research in my lab is just starting to yield significant observations, but we do not currently have Federal funding to support our exciting work.

We will use the Katherine Bensen Hope Award to determine how telomerase inhibition with our novel agent works together with the immune system and whether targeting telomerase – a hallmark of cancer – can sensitize otherwise treatment-resistant tumors to the current standard of care. Because telomerase is a common cancer target, we believe that the biology can be applied to most lung cancers including the non-smoker associated lung cancers which are currently refractory to immunotherapies. Thankfully, with the funding from A Breath of Hope, Lung Foundation, we will be able to launch these studies. 

We appreciate A Breath of Hope, its donors, and specifically Katherine Bensen’s dedication to support lung cancer research even during such difficult times. We will use the funds to generate data to help inform clinical trials and sincerely hope to make an impact in the lives of lung cancer patients and their families.

Warmest regards to the ABOH Community,


Dr. Esra Akbay, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Pathology
UT Southwestern Medical Center