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The current state of lung cancer treatment
Date:12/11/2012

l chemotherapies, and with much reduced side effects.

But with this great promise of picking off cancer varieties one-by-one according to their oncogenes comes the challenge of testing drugs that are effective in perhaps only one of every 100 lung cancer patients. The challenge is twofold: enrolling enough patients on a clinical trial to make the results meaningful, and securing funding for a trial in which the drug will only be marketable to a small slice of the lung cancer population.

"How do you get drug approvals for what we'd normally call orphan diseases?" Bunn asks.

Then, Bunn points to the major challenge of staying ahead of lung cancer as it mutates in response to these targeted first-line drugs. "Targeted therapies don't cure patients yet," Bunn says. Instead, lung cancer eventually mutates around the drug's effectiveness. "And so we have to discover the most rational combinations and see if these combinations allow complete response," Bunn says.

In addition to therapies targeting oncogenes, Bunn describes completely new approaches to treating the disease, including Phase III clinical trials of lung cancer vaccines that aid the body's immune response against the cancer, and the search for ways to promote the function of tumor-suppressor genes that are commonly turned off in cancers.

What is clear is that after many years of chemotherapy and radiation, we're in the midst of an explosion in novel lung cancer treatment options.

"In the coming few years it is likely that we will identify additional 'actionable' molecular drivers treated with specific oral inhibitors," Bunn says. "We're already up to 30 or 40 percent of lung cancers that are susceptible to targeted therapies. I don't know if we'll reach 100 percent but the number is certain to grow."


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Contact: Garth Sundem
garth.sundem@ucdenver.edu
University of Colorado Denver
Source:Eurekalert

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