Johnson & Johnson Innovation Announces New Research That May Lead to Opportunities for Earlier Interception Strategies in Lung Cancer

First published data from research alliance with Boston University focuses on role of the immune system in the early development of lung cancer, opening a potential path to intercept the disease-causing process

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., April 23, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC announced today that new data published in Nature Communications reveals the potential role of the immune system in the early development of lung cancer. These findings are part of a large ongoing study, the Pre-Cancer Genome Atlas (PCGA), which seeks to identify potential factors involved in pre-cancer disease progression so that the disease can be detected and intercepted at the earliest possible stages.

"We know the immune system plays a pivotal role in the body's ability to identify and destroy some cancers. However, what's most exciting about this study is that it shows that the presence or absence of immune cells in lung pre-cancerous lesions may provide critical information as to whether that lesion will progress towards invasive lung cancer," said Avrum Spira, M.D., Global Head, the Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson1 and Alexander Graham Bell Professor at Boston University. "This information could one day underpin strategies to identify individuals who are incubating lung cancer and intercept the development of manifested invasive disease."

In the study, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and Janssen Research & Development, LLC collaborated to study the genomic alterations in pre-cancerous lesions occurring in the airway and lungs of current and former smokers (known as squamous cell dysplasia). Using bronchoscopy, the pre-cancerous lesions were biopsied repeatedly over time as they either progressed towards or regressed away from invasive lung cancer. Researchers identified biological characteristics within the lesions that indicated a higher risk of progressing to lung cancer, and that the progressive lesions showed a lack of immune cells in their immune microenvironment.

Notably, the results further demonstrated that genomic alterations associated with high-risk lesions can also be found in brushings of "normal" appearing airway cells from the same patients, suggesting a less invasive approach to identifying individuals who are incubating a pre-lung cancer process. This research is important for the identification of patients who are early in the disease initiation process and who may benefit from interception strategies, and highlights that interventions that alter the immune system might be effective in delaying or reversing the development of lung cancer.

"Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, because the disease is typically diagnosed in its later stages," said William N. Hait, M.D., Ph.D. Global Head, Johnson & Johnson External Innovation, Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC. "These research findings establish foundational science that we hope will contribute to a deeper understanding of the biology of lung cancer, and move us closer to preventing, intercepting and curing the disease. If we could detect pre-malignant signs in people at risk of developing lung cancer, and effectively treat the pre-cancerous lesions in the lungs at that early point, it may offer a viable path to reducing the burden of the world's leading cause of cancer deaths."

More people die of lung cancer than from colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. In the U.S., lung cancer claims approximately 143,000 lives each year.2 The worldwide incidence remains high and is growing in certain regions and among women.3 In China, for example, 730,000 new cases of lung cancer were reported in 2015 and the disease incidence is expected to rise.4 Most patients diagnosed with lung cancer (~70%) are diagnosed in stages 3 or 4.5 The five-year survival rate of patients with lung cancer of 17.8% is much lower than that of other common cancers.6

The PCGA was developed by Janssen Research & Development, LLC, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, and Boston University. It has received additional funding from the Stand Up To Cancer–LUNGevity–American Lung Association Lung Cancer Interception Dream Team,7 the National Cancer Institute, and the recently established Translational Research Alliance between Boston University and the Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson.8

The Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson (LCI) is dedicated to transforming the standard of care for this devastating disease. Leveraging Johnson & Johnson's expertise across its Consumer, Medical Device and Pharmaceutical business segments, the vision for the LCI is to develop solutions that prevent, intercept and cure lung cancer, enabling a future vision where there is a world without this devastating disease. By focusing on where the best science and innovation is being developed anywhere in the world, the LCI will eliminate lung cancer one patient at a time by developing holistic solutions through consumer products, diagnostics, medical devices and pharmaceuticals.

Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC focuses on accelerating all stages of innovation worldwide and forming collaborations between entrepreneurs and Johnson & Johnson's global healthcare businesses. Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC provides scientists, entrepreneurs and emerging companies with one-stop access to science and technology experts who can facilitate collaborations across the pharmaceutical, medical devices and consumer companies of Johnson & Johnson. Under the Johnson & Johnson Innovation umbrella of businesses, we connect with innovators through our regional Innovation Centers, JLABS, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc. and our Business Development teams to create customized deals and novel collaborations that speed development of innovations to solve unmet needs for patients. For more information please visit:

At Janssen, we're creating a future where disease is a thing of the past. We're the Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, working tirelessly to make that future a reality for patients everywhere by fighting sickness with science, improving access with ingenuity, and healing hopelessness with heart. We focus on areas of medicine where we can make the biggest difference: Cardiovascular & Metabolism, Immunology, Infectious Diseases & Vaccines, Neuroscience, Oncology, and Pulmonary Hypertension. Janssen Research & Development, LLC is one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. Learn more at Follow us at and

Cautions Concerning Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains "forward-looking statements" as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 related to a new collaboration and product research and development. The reader is cautioned not to rely on these forward-looking statements. These statements are based on current expectations of future events. If underlying assumptions prove inaccurate or known or unknown risks or uncertainties materialize, actual results could vary materially from the expectations and projections of Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC, the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies and/or Johnson & Johnson. Risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to: the potential that the expected benefits and opportunities related to the collaboration may not be realized or may take longer to realize than expected; challenges inherent in new product research and development, including the uncertainty of clinical success and obtaining regulatory approvals; competition, including technological advances, new products and patents attained by competitors; uncertainty of commercial success for new products; the ability of the company to successfully execute strategic plans; impact of business combinations and divestitures; challenges to patents; changes in behavior and spending patterns or financial distress of purchasers of health care products and services; and global health care reforms and trends toward health care cost containment. A further list and descriptions of these risks, uncertainties and other factors can be found in Johnson & Johnson's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 30, 2018, including under "Item 1A. Risk Factors," its most recently filed Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q, including under the caption "Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements," and the company's subsequent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Copies of these filings are available online at, or on request from Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC, the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies and Johnson & Johnson do not undertake to update any forward-looking statement as a result of new information or future events or developments.


John Lacey
The Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson
(781) 392 5514

Oliver Stohlmann
External Innovation Communication
(908) 255 7126

Lesley Fishman
Investor Relations
(732) 524 3922

1 Dr. Avrum Spira is an employee of Janssen Research & Development, LLC.
2 American Cancer Society, Key Statistics for Lung Cancer
3 Nature. Incidence and mortality of lung cancer: global trends and association with socioeconomic status.
4 Reuters. China lung cancer on rise, smog suspected.
5 Lemjabbar-Alaoui H, Hassan OU, Yang YW, Buchanan P. Lung cancer: Biology and treatment options. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2015;1856(2):189-210.
6 American Lung Association, Lung Cancer Fact Sheet
7 Stand Up To Cancer is a division of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a 501(c)(3).

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SOURCE Johnson & Johnson Innovation

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