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How Lung Cancer Treatment Advanced in 2016

(January 23, 2017)

The year 2016 brought us a few steps closer to improving lung cancer survival with the approval of several new lung cancer drugs. For many years, there was little progress made in the treatment of lung cancer, but with increased funding and improved lung cancer awareness, researchers have recently made great strides in lung cancer treatment. This past year was no different. Although we did not see as many drug approvals as in 2015, in 2016 we saw major advancements in targeted and immunotherapies.

The year started with the approval of crizotinib to treat people with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors have a ROS-1 gene alteration. Crizotinib is the first drug to be approved for NSCLC patients with this type of mutation. The spring brought a new treatment option for patients with advanced squamous cell carcinoma. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted a supplemental New Drug Application (sNDA) for afatinib. Previously, this drug was only approved for patients with certain types of EGFR mutations. Now the drug is also approved for patients with advanced squamous cell carcinoma whose cancer continues to grow after chemotherapy.

The fall stewarded in two major advances in immunotherapy. A third immunotherapy drug, atezolizumab, was approved as a second-line treatment for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. A week later, pembrolizumab, became the first immunotherapy drug approved for first-line treatment. Immunotherapy is a rapidly advancing field that harnesses the power of a person's immune system to fight lung cancer.

It is an exciting time in the field of lung cancer research and we hope 2017 brings even more treatment options to those fighting lung cancer. Since the launch of its LUNG FORCE initiative in 2014, the American Lung Association has doubled its investment in lung cancer research. See what our researchers are working on and help us spread the word about the need for increased National Institutes of Health research funding. Through research, we continually work toward additional ways to increase survival and improve quality of life for those living with lung cancer.

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