Meet the Researchers

Alice Berger, PhD

Discovering how changes to genetic code lead to cancer

Class of 2017

Associate Professor, Human Biology Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Associate Professor, Herbold Computational Biology Program, Public Health Sciences Division, Fred Hutch

Member, Translational Data Science Integrated Research Center (TDS IRC), Fred Hutch

Genomic Characterization of Lung Cancer in Never-Smokers

Lung Cancer in Non-smoking Women

Dr. Alice Berger discusses her research into lung cancer in non-smoking women with lung cancer patient-advocate, Juanita Segura.

Their Story

“The goal of this project is to identify new potential drug targets in lung cancer and to better understand the etiology of lung cancer in patients without a smoking history.”

LCFA Grant is Like a Catalyst

Dr. Berger’s hope is to find more “targets” for additional personalized treatments for lung cancer. Find out more on personalized medicine for lung cancer. And, download LCFA’s Personalized Medicine Brochure.

Grants Awarded


Dr. Alice Berger, a specialist in the genetics of lung cancer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, was awarded the 2017 LCFA/IASLC Lori Monroe Scholarship for Translational Lung Cancer Research. This early-career support is part of LCFA’s initiative to retain promising talent in lung cancer research and position them for substantial grants from institutions like the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

About the LCFA-Funded Research

Lung Cancer in women who have never smoked

Lung Cancer in women who have never smoked is the focus of the study proposed by Dr. Alice Berger, a translational researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center  which was chosen to receive the 2017 LCFA/IASLC Lori Monroe Scholarship for Translational Lung Cancer Research.

She will use the scholarship to perform genome sequencing on lung tumors found in women with no history of smoking who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). The WHI, coordinated by Fred Hutchinson Cancer in Seattle, WA, is one of the largest U.S. prevention studies of its kind, involving more than 161,000 women.

Berger will conduct the research in collaboration with Dr. Garnet Anderson, principal investigator of the WHI Clinical Coordinating Center, senior vice president and director of the Public Health Sciences Division and Fred Hutch 40th Anniversary Endowed Chair.

“In the small number of tumors from never-smokers who have been profiled, we can see that the genetic changes in never-smokers are very different from that of smokers.”

According to Berger, previous genetic studies of lung cancer have focused mainly on tumors from people with a history of smoking; the largest study of never-smokers to date has included only 33 participants.

1 year Progress Report from Dr. Alice Berger

The proportion of lung cancers that occur in people who have never smoked is increasing. Women are particularly affected; In 2016, 24% of lung cancer cases in women were diagnosed in ‘never-smokers,’ individuals who have smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime.

Despite the prevalence of lung cancer in never-smokers, previous genome sequencing studies of lung cancers have predominantly analyzed tumors from smokers, yet it is these studies that have discovered the most clinically important targets in lung cancer such as EGFR mutations and ALK fusion genes. Genome studies of never-smokers have typically focused only these already known genetic alterations, so we are completely blind to other genetic events that might contribute to disease in never-smokers.

The goal of this work is to apply unbiased, genome-wide sequencing to identify genetic alterations in lung cancers from never-smokers. The project is the launch of a unique collaboration between my lab and the Women’s Health Initiative. The Women’s Health Initiative has led a decades-spanning study involving over 160,000 post-menopausal women.

Follow her progress on X (Twitter) @aliceb_phd

Complete List of Published Works