Tumor Testing

cell cultureWhen a tumor is biopsied (a small portion removed), a pathologistA doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope. examines the tissue and its cells closely. This determines what type of lung cancer it is: small cell or non-small cell. Now more detailed testing can be done on your tumor if your doctor requests it. These tests are sometimes referred to as molecular testing or biomarker testing. They look for changes (mutationsA permanent change in the DNA sequence of a gene.) in the DNA of the tumor and levels of specific proteins present in the tumor.

Why are Mutations and Proteins Important in Cancer Treatment?

In healthy cells, pathways built with proteins help communication work properly. This allows the cells to grow normally. When cells mutate, or change, the proteins change too and the communication signals are disturbed. The signals can tell the cell to grow nonstop. The uncontrolled cells can clump together and form tumors.

It is helpful for doctors to know what exactly causes the cell to grow uncontrollably. If they know this, they may choose to treat you with targeted therapies. These therapies stop the proteins and molecules in the cancer cell from telling it to grow nonstop. This type of treatment is often known as precision, or personalized, medicine.

There are targeted therapy treatments available for tumors that have the following characteristics:

Talk to your doctor about whether or not you should have your tumor tested. While tumor testing is a promising field, it does not guarantee your cancer will be cured.

Cancer therapies are always changing and more research is needed to find out how well molecular tumor testing and treatment work. Clinical trials are research studies where patients participate to help evaluate new cancer treatments. Clinical trials can be helpful to the patient and researchers.

Early detection of lung cancer can increase survival rates. Call the Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA or talk to your doctor about lung cancer screening.