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Targeted Therapies Offer Greater Precision in Advanced Lung Cancer Treatment

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March 5, 2021

Biomarker testing finds the right target

  • The only way to offer lung cancer patients the most targeted and effective treatments today is with biomarker testing
  • This includes molecular testing to identify treatable targets such as EGFR, ALK, ROS, and KRAS
  • A few promising therapies targeting KRAS are under investigation
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Lung cancer treatment is evolving from one-size-fits-all approaches to more targeted precision medicine. Understanding the molecular makeup of a patient’s tumor is essential to finding the treatment strategy that is most likely to produce a durable response.

“At this point, there’s just no way to treat a patient in the best possible way without biomarker testing,” Dr. Balazs Halmos, medical oncologist and director of the Thoracic Oncology Program at Montefiore Medical Center, tells SurvivorNet Connect.

Testing is “a changing paradigm,” Dr. Halmos says, with new tests added every year. “Now it has to include molecular testing — trying to understand the genomic makeup of the lung cancer.”

Specifically, molecular tests are looking for actionable mutations with FDA-approved drug targets. Those includes more established targets such as EGFR, ALK, and ROS, as well as newer ones such as MET exon 14, RET translocations, and KRAS mutations. KRAS is the most mutated of all oncogenes, present in 1 in 4 tumors, and it is associated with a poorer prognosis in lung cancer.

Until recently, there were no treatable targets for KRAS, but that has changed. Today a few very promising therapies are under investigation. “These are moving ahead very fast in terms of clinical development,” Dr. Halmos says. “And we do believe that, soon enough, they might be available through FDA approvals.”