Sifting through cancer news and keeping tabs on the latest research can be tricky. So we turned to Urvi Mujumdar – a senior research scientist at PatientsLikeMe who specializes in oncology studies – to break down the latest research and treatments options for people with different types of lung cancer.
Ongoing research, at a glance
“Research in lung cancer – non-small cell, small cell and carcinoid tumors – is happening at all stages, from prevention to treatment,” Urvi says. Here’s a closer look at what researchers are currently exploring:
- Environmental causes (beyond tobacco smoke exposure) that may increase the risk for lung cancer
- The impact of healthy eating habits on preventing or reducing the risk for lung cancer
- New diagnostic methods for cancer screening (see the American Cancer Society’s summary of possible new tools for diagnosis, plus recent research on “liquid biopsies” or follow-up blood tests for cancer detection)
- Therapeutic advancements for various forms of lung cancer treatment, including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and targeted therapy. For example, researchers are looking into the use of image guided radiation therapy (IGRT), which allows for more careful targeting of radiation therapy.
Trends in clinical trials
Many clinical trials have an increased focus on the molecular composition of tumors, specific genetic mutations, and the role these mutations play in the progression of cancer and response to various treatments, Urvi says.
“Another exciting area of research is in the world of Immuno-oncology, a specific type of treatment that focuses on using the body’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells,” she says.
Clinical trials also include new treatments that are being tested in Phase I, II and III studies to understand what dose will work in humans. (Hear about PatientsLikeMe member David’s experience participating in a clinical trial for lung cancer and try our clinical trial finder to search for research opportunities near you.)
New treatments for lung cancer
Over the past couple years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved multiple new treatments for lung cancer. These treatments include (hint: click on the links for treatment reports from PatientsLikeMe members):
- New targeted therapies for mutations in the ALK gene (Alecensa or alectinib, Alunbrig or brigatinib)
- New therapies for mutations in the EGFR gene (Tagrisso or osimertinib)
- New immuno-oncology or immunotherapy drugs (Opdivo or nivolumab, Portrazza or necitumumab, Keytruda or pembrolizumab, Tecentriq or atezolizumab).
Most recently, the FDA approved the combination of two drugs (Tafinlar or dabrafenib with Mekinist or trametinib) for patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with a specific mutation on the BRAF gene. Also, a diagnostic target test called Oncomine has been approved to specifically test for this mutation, and others on the ALK, ROS1, and EGFR genes.
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