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Targeted lung cancer therapies

Why precision medicine? Why targeted therapies?

Traditional lung cancer treatments (like chemotherapy) kill cancer cells, but can also affect healthy cells throughout the body. This can burden patients with a lot of side effects.

A new class of precision lung cancer medicine—targeted therapies based on patients’ unique genetics—can reduce damage to healthy cells. Instead, these targeted therapies interrupt the growth and function of cancerous cells by attacking specific targets on or inside of them. This can reduce side effects while providing other quality of life and cancer-fighting benefits.

Some of the more common targeted lung cancer therapies include:

  • Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors
  • Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) inhibitors
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors

The first step of connecting patients with the right targeted therapies is molecular (“biomarker”) testing of a tissue sample from the patient’s tumor. This is done in a lab setting, where a pathologist examines the tissue for biological changes in genes or proteins.

A patient perspective

“I’m a unicorn,” says Anne Marie Cerato. “I’m a rarity.” Diagnosed with Stage 3A adenocarcinoma in the spring of 2009, Anne Marie was just thirty years old when her now decade-long lung cancer journey began. At the time, she wondered if she would live more than a year or two. “Cancer changed everything,” she reflects. Incredibly, Anne Marie defied survivorship statistics thanks to unprecedented advancements in lung cancer treatment. In fact, her experience with precision medicine has led her to advocate harder than ever for patients’ access to the right treatments at the right times.