Targeted Therapies for Lung Cancer

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Watch Dr. Edward Kim explain how targeted therapy works
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Lung cancer treatment that kills cancer cells also can affect normal cells, causing unwanted side effects. New lung cancer drugs called targeted therapies help reduce damage to healthy cells. They focus on cancer cells by interrupting their growth and how they function. 

Targeting Biomarkers

Targeted therapy is commonly talked about as a treatment for patients who have certain abnormalities in their tumors that can be found through biomarker testing. Biomarker testing looks for changes in the tumor's DNA. These changes can be mutations, additions, deletions or rearrangements in the DNA. Some lung cancer treatments can "target" these changes directly. These lung cancer treatments often cause fewer side effects because they focus on targeting what is exactly wrong with the cancer cell, instead of killing normal, healthy cells too. These therapies attack specific targets on or in the tumor cells. Not every person is eligible for targeted therapies for lung cancer. Your doctor might order a special test of your tumor called molecular testing or biomarker testing. Talk to your doctor about your testing options and treatment recommendations. Targeted therapy drugs work in different ways to chemotherapy.

There are currently FDA-approved targeted therapies for lung cancer tumors showing characteristics of abnormalities in EGFR, ALK, ROS-1, NTRK, MET, RET and BRAF V600E. If you do not test positive a biomarker with an approved targeted therapy, traditional chemotherapy, immunotherapy or a combination of the two may be recommended. Surgery or radiation may also be recommended. It may also be appropriate to enroll in a clinical trial looking at treatments for a number of other markers.

Take Action

Lung cancer therapies are always changing. Talk to your doctor about getting your tumor tested to see if you are a candidate for targeted lung cancer therapies and about joining a clinical trial for targeted therapy. Download a list of suggested questions.

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Page last updated: May 11, 2020

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