Personalized medicine – or matching a patient’s tumor with an appropriate treatment – is transforming lung cancer and bringing a measure of hope to patients, according to a review by Eric S. Kim, M.D., and Kishan J. Pandya, M.D., of the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, published in the journal Expert Opinion on Medical Diagnostics.
Even chemotherapy can be personalized now to some degree, based on the identification of tumor biomarkers that make it sensitive to certain drugs. Advances in genomics and bioinformatics, which allow scientists to improve molecular profiling, are expected to push this even further by rapidly driving discoveries. (The Lung Cancer Mutation Consortium, at http://www.golcmc.com, represents a global effort to attack the problem.)
This is exciting news for a cancer that has long been stigmatized due to smoking, even when the patient is a nonsmoker. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, with a 16 percent five-year survival rate.
Kim and Pandya, however, call for a more persistent effort at basic science. Nearly all patients with advanced lung cancer are prone to relapse after therapy, and thus a better understanding of what causes therapy resistance is at least as important as identifying new, targetable genetic changes.