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About the Judith Tam ALK Lung Cancer Research Initiative



A team science, collaborative program to advance precision medicine for patients with ALK+ NSCLC aimed to delay, prevent, or eliminate the resistance and progression.

Three students, two Asian-American men and a woman, talking



Rachel Sexton and Nathalie Vandecan analyzing gel electrophoresis


Through the creation of a diverse multidisciplinary team and broad collaborations with many groups, we are focused on developing a deep understanding of the personalized molecular mechanisms of resistance and vulnerability of ALK driven NSCLC and to create new drugs. Our program aims to achieve rapid testing and validation of key discoveries to accelerate new treatment strategies that directly enhance the quality and length of life of patients affected by this aggressive cancer.


“This visionary gift and the depth of knowledge that has been assembled will bring genuine hope to me and everyone diagnosed with ALK-positive cancer, now and in the future.”

- Judith Tam


With the recognition that transformative advances in medicine often arise at the convergence of multiple fields addressing a common problem, at the U-M, we assembled a team of investigators with expertise in cancer cell and molecular biology, normal tissue programming and architecture, medicinal chemistry with specific expertise on kinases, pharmacology, pathology, bioinformatics, surgery, and biomedical engineering.

Our multidisciplinary approach converges into the overall program objectives of:

  1. Utility for patients now. We are poised to attack this problem from three distinct, and yet completely inter-related angles.
  2. Ameliorating disparities of access to precision medicine for ALK driven disease.
  3. Training the next generation of ALK lung cancer researchers.
  4. Establishing collaborative clinical trials with strong correlative science.


fluorescent blue color lights up a slide under the microscope


Our Research is organized into 3 distinct projects, along with multiple developing projects:

  • Research Project 1: Advancing precision medicine by testing minimally cultured non-small cell lung cancer samples from patients to predict how patients' tumors will respond to therapies.
  • Research Project 2: Developing research models and improving understanding of the cell of origin, transformation, and progression events, including transformation of adenocarcinoma to small cell carcinoma, in the setting of TKI resistance, for early detection of changes and therapy adjustments.
  • Research Project 3: Pursuing new approaches to invent and test a new strategy for using combinations of drugs against ALK and create novel inhibitors against ALK, by targeting a portion of ALK molecule not usually targeted by conventional therapies.
  • Developing Projects

    • The ALK immune environment Characterizing the ALK immune micro-environment during the course of oncogenesis and identifying key cells and interactions driving drug resistance.
    • Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs) Analysis Isolating circulating tumor cells (CTC) for enrichment and expansion to monitor tumor mutation during a clinical treatment course.
    • Novel ALK Inhibitors Identifying new molecules for use as targeted therapies in ALK+ non-small cell lung cancer.

Enrollment is now open for a Phase 1 clinical trial for new therapies in ALK+ lung cancer.
Please email us at [email protected] to get involved.