Personalised medicine boosts lung cancer survival

22 May 2014

A new paper reports on the positive impact of genomic tumour profiling on survival for patients with the most common form of lung cancer.

The Lung Cancer Mutation Consortium, a group of 14 US hospitals, incorporated genomic tumour profiling into therapeutic decision-making for patients with an advanced form of lung cancer. They report findings from over 700 patients showing that the presence of one of ten specific ‘driver’ mutations was identified in 64% of cases. In 28% of these cases, patients were able to receive therapies that specifically targeted their driver mutation, resulting in significantly prolonged survival times.


Lung adenocarcinoma patients with identified oncogenic driver mutations who received targeted drug treatment had a median survival of about 3.5 years compared with 2.4 years for patients with identified driver mutations who did not receive targeted therapies. The median survival for patients without identified driver mutations was even lower at 2.1 years.


The authors do however note a number of limitations with their own research, taking care to say it is merely a proof-of-concept study and emphasising that larger, randomised clinical trials would be needed to reliably determine whether or not genetically targeted therapy of this kind genuinely improves survival.


Nevertheless, this type of personalised or stratified cancer medicine continues to show enormous promise to improve treatment; another advantage is that side-effects are generally much less severe, since they target unique genetic features of the cancer cells and have less impact on healthy cells.  Technological advances already underpin much more extensive and sophisticated forms of genomic and exomic tumour profiling that could offer further advantages.

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