How Patients’ Genetic Information is Driving Improvements in Lung Cancer Therapeutics
This week, I’m looking forward to joining colleagues at the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer’s (IASLC) 2020 World Congress Lung Cancer (WCLC) to reaffirm our commitment to eliminating lung cancer - the leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide. It’s inspiring to consider the strides that have been made toward improving the lives of those affected by lung cancer over the past year, even while the world has contended with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Personalizing Care for Lung Cancer Patients
The important shift away from attempts to treat patients with one-size-fits-all strategies toward more personalized approaches to care is accelerating with our growing understanding of how patients’ genetics may impact their disease progression and response to treatments. Standards of care too are evolving as we develop more targeted therapies that can improve outcomes for specific subpopulations of patients with lung cancer.
The more precisely we can define the features of the disease afflicting each patient with lung cancer, the more empowered we become to offer each patient therapies with the most potential to improve outcomes. Through genetic testing, we can now determine which patients are most likely to benefit from specific therapeutics based on the presence or absence of gene mutations.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and other organizations that produce clinical guidelines recommend that all patients with NSCLC be tested for genetic mutations, including epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations. The knowledge gleaned from these tests equips oncologists with different therapy options for their patients and the opportunity to develop customized treatment plans.
This type of precision medicine underpinned by genetic data is helping us at Janssen systematically search for and discover new therapies for patients with NSCLC. Evaluating if and how patients respond to existing therapies provides us with clues about how to further refine the way we classify patients and to identify specific unmet needs within the therapeutic landscape.
In the case of EGFR mutations, the development of EGFR directed targeted therapies has significantly improved outcomes and transformed treatment for patients with NSCLC harboring mutant EGFR. Though patients with the common EGFR mutations (i.e. deletions in exon 19 and exon 21 L858R mutations) respond well to EGFR inhibitors, those with less common EGFR mutations (i.e. exon 20insertion mutations) do not. Fleshing out our understanding of less common EGFR mutations is critical to the development of effective therapies for these subpopulations.
The Future: Eliminating Lung Cancer
At WCLC, I anticipate substantive discussions around how we can learn more about the similarities and differences between subgroups of patients with NSCLC. I’m excited to share Janssen’s vision for how we can more comprehensively address the needs of patients with NSCLC harboring mutant EGFR, including those with uncommon mutations, so that very soon each and every patient has a treatment option that is right for them.