Why Are Targeted Therapies Important and What Makes Them “Personalized”?

Exciting new treatments for lung cancer are being discovered that may be used alone, before or after, or in combination with traditional chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. TARGETED THERAPIES are treatments that specifically target mutational changes in cancer cells. IMMUNO-ONCOLOGY is a kind of IMMUNOTHERAPY that stimulate or uses a patient’s own immune system to combat cancer.

We call this “personalized medicine” because each patient’s tumor has a unique genetic profile as a result of any number of mutations that can happen in the genes of cancer cells. Patient A’s cancer may have mutation X, while Patient B’s may have mutation Y, and so on. This means that what works for one patient with lung cancer may not work for another. We are rapidly learning how to use this knowledge to match the best treatment for each individual patient.

What is immuno-oncology and how is it different from targeted therapy?

 The latest exciting research breakthrough for cancer treatment is in the field of immuno-oncology. This form of treatment uses or enhances the patient’s own immune system to be able to stop the growth of cancer cells. For example, many NSCLC cells have molecules on the surface of tumor cells known as PD-L1. Patients have immune cells that fight disease known as “T-cells.” T-cells usually recognize cancer cells as being foreign and attack the cells. However, if a cancer cell has the PD-L1 molecule on its surface, the T-cell no longer recognizes it as abnormal. Drugs that block this molecule make the cell visible to T-cells so it can now be attacked.

Other immunotherapy and immuno-oncology treatments are also in development that enhance a person’s immune response against their cancer such as cancer-killing bacteria and viruses, gene therapies and adoptive cell transfer..