Issue IntroductionsLung Cancer

Continuing Progress in Lung Cancer Treatment

Dalia Buffery, MA, ABD

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. The good news is that this has led many drug companies to develop new treatments, with increasing focus on targeted therapies and immunotherapies, in the hope of extending survival for patients affected by this deadly malignancy, with the ultimate goal of finding a cure.

A main dilemma in lung cancer is that most patients are diagnosed at a late stage, often after the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body, when treatment is much more difficult. Nevertheless, although cure remains elusive for most patients, considerable progress has been made in recent years in targeted therapies and immunotherapies for lung cancer, as shown in this special issue.

The issue opens with the article by Dr. Gershenhorn, a lung cancer expert, who tells patients what 3 questions they should ask their doctors when first being diagnosed with lung cancer. These questions highlight the type of information patients need to know to ensure they receive the best treatment available for their specific lung cancer type and stage, considering the speed of change in the understanding and treatment options available for lung cancer.

This issue also features the personal stories of 3 patients who were unexpectedly diagnosed with lung cancer—a young, healthy person who was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 28; a healthy, young woman in her late twenties who had never smoked and lung cancer was the last thing on her mind; and an older man whose world was turned upside down with this diagnosis.

The one common thread in these 3 stories is that the patients all have the same genetic mutation (alteration), ALK mutation, which is considered to affect a minority (about 5% to 7%) of patients with lung cancer. After reading these unrelated stories (and others), one wonders whether the statistics will soon be adjusted, or if this is a mere coincidence.

Luckily for these patients, new targeted therapies that are designed to target a specific biologic feature (a biomarker) of the cancer have recently been developed for patients with lung cancer, thus changing what was only a few years ago a sure death sentence into a potentially long survival, and even a cure.

Read a second article by Dr. Gershenhorn explaining the role of these new targeted therapies in the treatment of non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common type of lung cancer, and how targeted therapies have changed the fate of patients diagnosed with NSCLC linked with specific mutations.

Another article in this issue is focused on the increasing role of immunotherapies in lung cancer, highlighting the 5 immune checkpoint inhibitors approved for patients with NSCLC.

Also read how being diagnosed with lung cancer has led one patient to channel her singing career into raising awareness of and money for lung cancer research while fighting the stigma associated with lung cancer, showing that genetics, not smoking, is causing many lung cancers.

Finally, read the most recent findings from new studies about potential novel therapies for NSCLC and for small-cell lung cancer, and a quick review of new drugs for lung cancer approved in 2018.

We hope this information is useful and inspiring, and prompts discussions with your oncologists and navigators regarding the best treatment option for you or your loved one.

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Last modified: October 13, 2020

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