WEDNESDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Advances in genetics and biomarker identification and testing are finally bearing fruit in the battle against lung cancer, a new set of studies suggests.
Until now, lung cancer has lagged behind other malignancies when it comes to identifying molecular features of the disease and developing specific drugs to target those features.
"Lung cancer is a very vexing problem. In the U.S., approximately 200,000 people will be diagnosed this year and the sad part of it is almost as many will die," said Dr. Roy Herbst, chief of thoracic medical oncology at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. "This disease tends to present having already spread, and it's very heterogenous. If we're going to make the next hurdle of personalized care, we need to better understand the tumor and use that knowledge to treat patients in more specific, effective and less toxic ways."
Herbst spoke at a Tuesday news conference that highlighted research being presented this week at a lung cancer conference in Coronado, Calif., being sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC).
"As we begin to understand the molecular basis for cancer, we're able to better characterize patients and better able to predict which drugs will or will not work," added Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge, La.
Breakthroughs in targeted lung cancer medicine have come only recently, namely with the drugs gefitinib (Iressa) and erlotinib (Tarceva), which aim for the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene.
Now, lung cancer scientists are opening the envelope of molecular-based medicine even further.
Here are summaries of five papers being featured at the conference.