Targeted Therapies for Lung Cancer Treatment

Targeted therapies are a form of personalized medicine that is bringing great hope to lung cancer patients. Targeted therapies have been found to have great benefit and fewer side effects while giving lung cancer patients more options for treatment.

In this Hope With Answers video series, watch Dr. Natasha Leighl, of Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto, Canada discusses the questions most important to lung cancer patients who are eligible for targeted therapies, with patient and advocate, Jill Feldman.

Dr. Christine Lovly of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center digs a little deeper into how targeted therapy works in lung cancer. She provides more in-depth discussions for diagnosed patients who need more knowledge to investigate treatment options with patient and advocate Lisa Goldman. Lastly, Dr. Lovly dives even more deeply into targeted therapies for lung cancer with patient and activist Janet Freeman- Daily.

Why Are Targeted Therapies Important?

Targeted therapy for lung cancer is one of the most important research discoveries bringing hope to lung cancer patients and their families. Targeted therapies are treatments that specifically target mutational changes in cancer cells. New targeted therapies for lung cancer are being discovered that may be used alone, before or after, or in combination with traditional chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.

What Makes Them “Personalized”?

Targeted therapy is sometimes called precision medicine or personalized medicine. Looking at each patient’s tumor with its unique molecular profile that is the result of any number of mutations that can happen in the genes of cancer cells. Patient A’s cancer may have mutation X, while Patient B’s may have mutation Y, and so on. This means that what works for one patient with lung cancer may not work for another.

Researchers are rapidly learning how to use this knowledge to match the best treatment for each individual patient. As of April 2018, 170 potential drug targets have been identified. This is a significant step forward toward personalizing cancer care. After testing more than 200,000 chemical compounds, researchers identified 170 potential candidates for development into drug therapies for lung cancer.

How Does Targeted Therapy Work?

By evaluating the mutations that occur in a lung cancer cell’s genome responsible for driving the uncontrolled growth and spread of these cells, drugs have been developed and approved that overcome these mutations and resulting changes in cellular processes. These Targeted Therapies include inhibitors for biomarkers such as EGFR, ALK, ROS1 and KRAS.

Researchers are learning more about what makes lung cancer cells form, grow, and spread. Every cell in the body has the same library of genes that acts as the blueprint for everything else that makes up a cell and makes it work. In cancer cells, damage to these genes (mutations) is responsible for the cells becoming cancerous.

Some of these mutations create proteins in cells that act like a stuck gas pedal in your car to make it drive out of control. These mutant proteins in cancer cells are good “targets” for new drugs known as Targeted Therapies.

Targeted therapies work by blocking these mutant proteins, which prevents them from growing and spreading, while not harming normal cells.

Here are examples of FDA-approved drugs that target the mutated proteins, some of which are referred to as “receptors” that are driving the cancer cells out of control.

  • All
  • ALK
  • BRAF
  • EGFR
  • EGFR Exon 19
  • EGFR Exon 20 insertion
  • EXON 21 L858R
  • KRAS G12C
  • MET
  • NTRK
  • PD-L1
  • ROS1

Why Target Therapy is a Game Changer

Hear from Dr. Natasha Leighl about why she’s excited about targeted therapy to patient-advocate Jill Feldman.


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