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Lung Cancer Tumor Testing

Key Points

  • Mutations or changes in the cell can cause the cell to behave abnormally.
  • A new type of lung cancer testing (often called molecular, biomarker or genomic testing) can sometimes find what exact mutations are in the cell.
  • Some new lung cancer treatments can "target" these mutations directly. These lung cancer treatments often cause fewer side effects because they focus on fixing what is exactly wrong with the cancer cell, instead of killing normal, healthy cells too.
  • Lung cancer tumor testing is a promising field, but does not guarantee a cure for lung cancer.

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Talk to your doctor about testing your tumor. Download a list of suggested questions.

When a tumor is biopsied (a small portion removed), a pathologist examines the tissue and its cells closely to determine what type of lung cancer it is. Now more detailed testing can be done on your tumor if your doctor requests it. These lung cancer tumor tests are sometimes referred to as molecular, biomarker or genomic testing. They look for changes (mutations) in the DNA of the tumor and levels of specific proteins present in the tumor.

If doctors know what exactly causes the cell to grow uncontrollably, they may choose to treat you with targeted therapies. These therapies stop the proteins and molecules in the cancer cell from telling it to continue to grow.

Talk to your doctor about tumor testing as soon as possible so they can be sure to remove enough tissue during the biopsy. It is also important to discuss comprehensive genomic testing which looks for all types of mutations in all the genes that are known to be associated with cancer. This gives doctors a full genomic profile of your unique tumor. This approach saves time and precious tissue while enabling physicians to make better-informed treatment decisions and to customize your treatment plan.

How Do Targeted Therapies Work?

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Hear Dr. Edward Kim talk about how targeted therapies relate to lung cancer treatment.

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

Each mutation works in a different way, but in general they all cause the cell to grow uncontrollably.

Not everyone who is tested for lung cancer will have biomarkers that can be treated with targeted therapies. While lung cancer tumor testing is a promising field, it does not guarantee a lung cancer cure.

Lung cancer therapies always are changing and more research is needed to find out how well molecular tumor testing and treatment work. Lung cancer clinical trials can be helpful to the patient and researchers. Talk to your doctor if you are interested in learning more about lung cancer clinical trials.

Learn more about targeted therapy »


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