By Jennifer King, PhD, Director of Science and Research
The Lung Cancer Alliance team just returned from the biggest scientific meeting of the year for those who treat patients with cancer, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Overall, new lung cancer treatment options are evolving and increasing, offering patients more personalized care. An important theme in the meeting was that molecular testing is critical for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) – it can help direct your therapy choices as well as which clinical research studies may be a good choice for you.*
You may have seen some real-time news about these developments during the event on our @LCAorg Twitter feed, but, if not, here’s a recap of the biggest findings in the area of lung cancer:
- As a first therapy for lung cancer that has changes in the ALK gene, Alecensa (alectinib) delayed cancer progression significantly compared to the currently prescribed Xalkori (crizotinib) – 25.7 months compared to 10.4 months.
- New ALK drug, lorlatinib, helped patients who had already relapsed from other approved drugs to target ALK+ cancer, including those with brain metastases.
- Tagrisso (osimeritinib) can also be effective in patients who have brain metastasis from EGFR+ lung cancer.
- A new drug, dacomitinib, was shown to be more effective than Iressa (gefitinib) for first treatment of EGFR+ cancer, although with more serious side effects.
- There may be a survival benefit in taking targeted therapies for specific mutations in the NTRK, MET and HER2 genes. These drugs are in clinical trials now and molecular testing of your cancer can let you know if you are a candidate.
- Updated Keytruda (pembrolizumab) data confirmed that if your NSCLC has a “high” level of the PD-L1 biomarker, Keytruda is more effective than chemotherapy as your first treatment. (This included comparing Keytruda followed by chemo to chemo followed by Keytruda. Keytruda first was better for these patients.)
- For patients with small cell lung cancer, Opdivo (nivolumab) plus Yervoy (ipilumumab) may be a promising treatment option after chemotherapy. 26% of patients who had relapsed, extensive-stage SCLC survived for two years on this combination. More trials are underway.
- Immunotherapy drugs are being combined with many other types of therapies and new types that are in development. There are many promising combinations of clinical trials that you can consider.* Scientists are studying which drugs to take together and in what order drugs should be taken.
- In elderly patients (>70), adding cisplatin to another chemotherapy does not provide a significant survival benefit.
- Having patients with cancer report their symptoms from chemotherapy weekly on an online system led to better quality of life and most importantly, longer survival. Patients should be empowered to discuss symptom management with their treatment team!
Overall, there is a lot happening in lung cancer research and we expect to see many more treatment options for all types of lung cancer in the coming months and years. Stay tuned!