Has Lung Cancer Met Its Match? How to Find the Right Lung Cancer Clinical Trial
It takes at least 10 years and $2.6 billion on average for a new treatment to become available for the general population, which means that it is a big deal when critical medical advancements are made.1 It also means it’s a big deal when we take steps towards those medical advancements, which is why we’re so excited about our new partnership with Lung Cancer Alliance (if you haven’t yet, make sure you check out www.lungmatch.org). We’ve made it easy for you to find lung cancer clinical trials for which you are eligible, but how do you know what trials are the most promising? How can you tell which treatments in development have the best chance of helping you? We’re here to help - and we’re starting with sharing some information about two of the most exciting medical advancements being developed today.
One promising advancement for all types of diseases, including lung cancer, is one of our favorite terms here at Antidote: precision medicine. The idea behind precision medicine is simple: we are all slightly different from each other because we all have different DNA, environments, and lifestyles. These differences mean that each person’s disease is also unique, and treatment options must be catered to the individual patient. For example, a 25-year-old female with lung cancer and a 75-year-old male with lung cancer may have very different disease causes or symptoms, and they should be treated accordingly.
To use precision medicine to fight lung cancer, we need to understand how lung cancer can vary from person to person. Scientists analyze DNA in a tumor to learn if there are any distinctive changes, which we call mutations, that have caused the cancer to develop. They then use this information to create a specialized treatment plan - one that will target the specific mutations of a particular patient. There are drugs used to treat lung cancer caused by some well-known mutations (you may have heard of KRAS, EGFR, ALK, or others). Testing tumors for mutations also helps scientists uncover new mutations for which additional drugs must be developed and studied.2,3
Another exciting medical advancement uses a patient’s immune system to fight cancer. Cancer is unique because unlike most illnesses, the immune system simply doesn’t fight it off. Often the immune system does not attack cancer cells because they appear just like other normal cells in our bodies. Even if the immune system can recognize and attack cancer cells, the cancer cells are notoriously good at finding new ways to avoid the immune system. Immunotherapy is a new type of treatment in which the immune system is given a boost so that it can recognize and attack cancer.
This boost can be accomplished in a few different ways, but one method in particular has been especially effective in treating lung cancer. Cells in the immune system have an “off switch”, called a checkpoint, to make sure that they don’t attack normal cells when they aren’t supposed to. Drugs called checkpoint inhibitors prevent the immune cells from turning off so that they are better able to attack cancer cells. There are two checkpoint inhibitor drugs currently available to patients with lung cancer, and more on the way with further research!4
Both precision medicine and immunotherapy are examples of cutting-edge science with the potential to make a real difference in the lives of patients. But it’s important to remember that no new treatments can be studied and brought to market without patients taking part in clinical trials. The information gathered in clinical trials helps solve urgent questions about what treatment approaches work best for which patients, so that more patients can be treated and cured. In return, patients receive the most some of the most advanced treatment options available.
Could you or a loved one benefit from precision medicine or immunotherapy? Find out what opportunities may be available to you at www.antidote.me.