New therapeutic approaches from genomic research
More recently, the biology of the lung cancer disease is becoming better understood by advances in genomics. It is apparent that lung cancer is composed of a plurality of subsets, which are characterized by specific molecular changes.
These genetic changes (known as mutations, amplifications, or gene fusions) are responsible for ensuring that the tumor cells show a malignant growth, therefore they are also called driver mutations. By means of targeted drugs (kinase inhibitors, antibodies) they can be inhibited.
This “personalized” treatment is often much more effective (higher tumor shrinkage rate, longer survival) and better tolerated than chemotherapy. Although such driver mutations can be found in approximately half of all patients with lung cancer, already approved targeted drugs are only available for a minor part of them. This involves genetic alterations in the EGFR-receptor, the ALK-gene and the ROS-gene. For more driver mutations there is the possibility to participate in clinical trials. Currently, all therapeutically treatable driver mutations belong to the group of adenocarcinoma, for the squamous cell carcinoma and the small cell lung cancer there are no personalized therapeutic approaches available yet.