Cutting Edge Treatment: Genomic Testing and Personalized Medicine
Advice from two leading cancer centers
“Personalized medicine” in recent years has begun to bring new hope to people with lung cancer, especially non-small cell lung cancer.
Personalized medicine involves looking at the cells obtained from a biopsy to see if there are any genetic mutations — changes in your genes — that could be linked to the type of cancer you have. For example, tumors in approximately 60 percent of patients with lung adenocarcinoma have been found to be linked to specific mutations.
Because certain chemotherapy drugs are either more or less effective than others against tumors with specific mutations, molecular analysis of your tumor, also called genomic testing, can help determine which therapies will be most likely to benefit you.
Based on which mutations are found, there may be a drug that has been approved for the changes in your specific tumor. Or you may be able to join a clinical trial that is testing a new drug.
Genetic information about your tumor can also help predict the chances that your cancer will return after surgery and make other treatment decisions about surgery or radiation therapy.
Genetic testing is now a routine part of diagnosis and staging for every patient with non-small cell lung cancer seen at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “We are one of only a handful of centers in the world to include this step.”
Source: Lung Cancer Genomic Testing (EGFR, KRAS, ALK) on the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website.
For some patients with non-small lung cancer, chemotherapy isn’t the most effective treatment option. But based on a tumor’s molecular profile or biomarker testing results, lung cancer treatment can be customized to target the tumor’s unique cellular characteristics.
The molecular abnormalities of a cancer – such as changes in its DNA, RNA and proteins – are what drive its growth. New treatments like targeted therapy and immunotherapy can attack these abnormalities to slow or stop a cancer’s growth. By knowing a tumor’s genetic makeup, we’re better able to predict which treatment is going to be most effective for each patient.
It’s especially important that lung cancer patients who’ve never smoked undergo molecular profiling, but all lung cancer patients should have biomarker testing. 30% of lung cancer cases can be more effectively treated with targeted therapies versus standard chemotherapy, and if you’re in that 30%, it can make a dramatic difference in survival times and quality of life.
Don’t feel rushed or pressured to start treatment. A single chemotherapy infusion can alter your targeted treatment options – and sometimes make you ineligible for certain clinical trials. So, know that it’s OK to wait to have molecular profiling done.
You’ll have the best chance for successful treatment if you take the time to undergo molecular profiling before starting treatment. “I encourage you to seek out a specialized cancer center like MD Anderson that has the resources to conduct the tests – and do so quickly.”
Source: Do lung cancer patients need molecular profiling? on the MD Anderson Cancer Center website.