Lung cancer, which is the second most common form of cancer for both men and women,1 is a disease for which targeted therapies can make a difference. As with all cancer cells, the cells in lung cancer tumors include mutated copies of certain genes that allow the tumor to grow through uncontrolled cell division. In most cases, these specific mutations are not found in a patient's healthy cells.
For patients with a form of lung cancer called non-small cell lung cancer, targeted drugs are available to treat tumors with these mutations. The most common mutations found in lung cancer tumors are present in genes referred to as "EGFR" and "ALK."2 Unlike chemotherapy, drugs that target these kinds of mutations can shrink tumors without damaging normal cells.
Personalized Medicine in Lung Cancer
Source: Republished with permission from Boehringer Ingelheim (BI), Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers, 2016.
A more detailed description of how personalized medicine applies to lung cancer is provided below.
Doctors using personalized medicine to treat a patient for lung cancer will usually begin by ordering a test called a molecular diagnostic. The results of the test contain information that will help the doctor determine whether tumor growth is being driven by specific mutations, like EGFR and ALK.
You can explore a list of the personalized medicine tests applicable to lung cancer using the link in the "Applications" section to the left.
If the molecular diagnostic indicates that the tumor's cells do include mutations that are likely driving the tumor's growth, the doctor may decide to prescribe a targeted therapy that targets this specific gene, thereby killing cells that contain the mutation. These drugs are often highly effective, and because they are specifically designed to affect only cells with mutated genes, they can shrink a cancerous tumor without harming a patient's healthy cells.
By contrast, standard treatment options for lung cancer patients, like chemotherapy, can harm a patient's healthy cells as well as the cancerous ones. This is an important reason why many lung cancer patients who benefit from personalized medicine are healthier than those who do not.
You can explore a list of the personalized medicine therapies applicable to lung cancer using the link in the "Applications" section to the left.