Several different treatments aimed at each type of cancer are currently being studied. Clinical trials are necessary to complete an objective and controlled evaluation of the activity of the drugs in question. Many of these treatments are still not authorised for indication in a healthcare setting and so clinical trials represent a unique opportunity for patients to potentially benefit from these new therapies.
If you wish to obtain specific information about clinical trials and therapies under investigation, you should ask your doctor to find out whether you can participate in one of them.
The most important development in recent years has undoubtedly been the identification of molecular markers that can be used to predict each individual’s response to treatments other than chemotherapy.
Advances in molecular diagnostics and targeted therapies provide glimpses of an optimistic future for lung cancer. It is known that up to 60% of lung adenocarcinomas may, in the future, be treatable with targeted molecular therapy. To achieve this end, the tumour must be analysed with high-precision technologies that identify the intracellular mechanisms characteristic of the tumour.
Over the coming years, new targeted gene therapies will be available for lung carcinomas; these treatments will be associated with less toxicity and greater antitumour efficacy.
The analysis of biomarkers in the tumour tissue helps us decide which drugs are the most appropriate and effective for each patient. For example, the subgroup of patients with lung adenocarcinoma standout because they carry a mutation in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene; there are already drugs available that can block the mutation and consequently inhibit tumour growth.
The ALK gene is also known to undergo a mutation and again drugs are already available to target this variation. Other biomarkers proven to predict patient response to targeted treatments are ROS, BRAF and c-Met.
In contrast to other tumours, e.g., breast, colon or cervical cancer, the role of early detection of lung cancer in at-risk populations such as smokers or ex-smokers is still unclear. Radiography does not provide enough sensitivity as an early detection method for lung cancer.
A study in the USA has demonstrated that CT imaging offers benefits as an early detection method in at-risk populations. However, these screening programs are not routinely established in Europe. Several studies are currently underway to validate the results of the American study. Early detection will undoubtedly improve the cure rates for lung cancer.