We once thought lung cancer, like many cancers, was one disease. We now know that if you examine the cells from a given lung tumor, many different mutations may be present. Therefore, the ‘molecular fingerprint’ of tumors differ and require different treatments.
Within lung cancer, the two main subtypes include:
- small cell lung cancer, and
- non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC);
but even patients within these subtypes may have different molecular fingerprints that are the driving force behind the disease. These different fingerprints will respond to different therapies.
‘Precision medicine’ is becoming a hot topic in medicine for this reason. Precision medicine, also known as personalized medicine, tailors treatment specifically to a patient’s tumor.
Specific genes being studied for mutations in lung cancer include EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor), KRAS (V-Ki-ras2 Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog) and more recently, ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase). Testing these genes for their ‘molecular fingerprint’ is seen as the standard of care in advanced-stage adenocarcinomas of the lung (lung cancer) in many centers, and may help guide the most appropriate treatment.
This type of precision medicine is become more routine in lung and other cancers. If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, please speak with your clinicians about the possibility of molecular testing.