Genetic testing for lung cancer: role, treatments and more

Genetic testing plays an integral part in diagnosing and treating lung cancer.

Doctors use this type of testing to find certain mutations. A person with a specific mutation may benefit from targeted treatment.

In this article, two experts in this field describe the use of genetic testing and its future in the treatment of lung cancer.

Genetic testing search changes or mutations in a person’s DNA. Doctors use the results to create customized treatment plans for a variety of diseases, including lung cancer.

Using genetic testing, doctors can identify changes in lung cells that can trigger and contribute to cancer growth, as explained by the American Lung Association. Your doctor may call these changes “biomarkers” of the disease.

Identifying biomarkers helps the physician recommend the best approach to treatment. Certain therapies target specific genetic mutations to help prevent the growth and development of cancer.

These targeted therapies are less invasive than traditional cancer treatments, because they do not destroy healthy cells – they stop the growth and proliferation of only cancer cells.

Dr. Jack Jacoub, an oncologist and medical director of the MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, reported that “testing is mandatory for every patient” at his facility.

“Every cancer patient should have next-generation sequencing that maps the genome of that cancer cell,” he added.

Depending on the results of this sequencing, treatment can be fast and very effective. Dr. Jacoub explained that “in the case of lung cancer that does not have small cells, you can give them a pill and within 4 to 6 weeks their cancer has more or less disappeared.”

Sandra Brown, MS, LCGC, regional director of genetics in Providence, Southern California and the Leonard Institute of Cancer, noted that “Most patients diagnosed with lung cancer will discuss the limits and benefits of molecular tumor profiling or somatic genetic testing with an oncologist. “

Dr. Jacoub reported that he was a little more controversial for the “squamous cell group”. But I would say everything needs to be tested because [a genetic test] I can catch some things [that a doctor] I didn’t expect it, and it can really be a transformation “, in terms of treatment.

Several biomarkers can help determine the most effective approach to treatment. However, not all doctors ask for the same sequence.

Specific treatments are available for the following lung cancer biomarkers:

  • epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation
  • MET reinforcement or MET exon 14 skipping
  • anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene rearrangement
  • PD-L1 level
  • ROS1 rearrangement
  • BRAF V600E mutation
  • NTRK fusion
  • RET rearrangements

“Each target has its assigned therapist [drug] or more therapies “, explained Dr. Jacoub.

To make sure they are on the most effective treatment, a person with lung cancer should get extensive genetic testing as soon as possible.

Gene therapies are usually oral drugs. The table below shows which currently available drugs correspond to the most common genetic mutations in lung cancer cases.

“Everyone [treatment] has various side effects. But it does not give you nausea, vomiting and hair loss with traditional chemotherapy “, reported Dr. Jacoub.

Targeted treatments can also greatly improve a person’s vision. “These therapies have a prognosis for an average of 2-3 years,” which “significantly improves the average survival rate, which was 9-12 months, and is still for lung cancer without these mutations,” he explained.

Researchers are continuously testing new targeted treatments for lung cancer. As the American Lung Cancer Foundation explains, researchers are investigating whether new drugs can treat lung cancer with other mutations.

The teams are exploring new ways to treat mutations in the following genes:

  • MET
  • KRAS
  • PD-L1
  • HER2
  • ROS1
  • RET
  • BRAF
  • IGF1R
  • ERBB2
  • PIK3CA

For example, current clinical trials are investigating the effectiveness of genetic testing and targeted therapies for a number of mutations. If, after receiving the drug under investigation, a participant experiences resistance or new growth of any tumor, they will be retested and offered new treatment.

The National Cancer Institute has a database of searchable ongoing clinical trials. Anyone interested in joining the trial should talk to their doctor first.

A person with lung cancer undergoes genetic testing so that their doctor can identify certain mutations in cancer-related genes.

Then your doctor may be able to recommend a treatment that targets a specific mutation but leaves healthy cells intact.

Ongoing research on targeted cancer therapies will continue to improve treatment options and outcomes for people with lung cancer.