The treatment of cancer is evolving quickly. Up until recently most cancer patients were given standard chemotherapy regimens based on the location of the tumor. Recent research, however, has shown that all cancers have distinct genetic “signatures” and that cancers from the same anatomic location can respond differently to the standard chemotherapy based on the genetic make-up of the tumor. Researchers have started using information about genetic “tumor markers” to tailor cancer treatment and guide the use of a new generation of “targeted” therapies.

In April, a team of researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston published the results of the BATTLE (Biomarker Integrated Approaches of Targeted Therapy For Lung Cancer Elimination) study, the first lung cancer trial to guide targeted treatment based on molecular signatures in tumor biopsies.

In summary the study involved:

  • Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer patients
  • Patients who had received at least one prior therapy for the cancer
  • Testing the lung cancer samples for a number of tumor markers
  • Using information from the tumor marker studies to guide therapy

They showed that a patient’s response to targeted therapies depended on the genetic changes present in the lung tumor.  More specifically, if the tumor had:

This study is important for a few reasons:

  • These findings are already changing the way doctors approach the treatment of lung cancer. Cancer doctors now have information that they can use to guide lung cancer therapy.  More research will be needed to validate this study but this is a very strong bit of evidence that targeting therapy appropriately improves survival.
  • Using these markers researchers will be better able to design clinical trials, requiring fewer patients to prove a new therapy works, and increasing the chances that new therapies can be approved.

Key Takeaways:

  • If you are diagnosed with lung cancer ask your oncologist about getting your tumor biopsied and tested for the markers mentioned in this study, because your oncologist may not know about this new research.
  • Ask your oncologist about new targeted therapies and if they are appropriate for you in light of the results from the BATTLE study.

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