A friend of mine, reading Paul Kalanithi’s beautiful piece about living with lung cancer in this past Sunday’s New York Times, asked if Kalanithi has the same mutation I have. He takes a pill that targets his specific genetic mutation, and he’s gotten well enough to go back to work, just like me. How many mutations like that can there possibly be?
Several, actually. People with non-small cell lung cancer that has the EGFR or ALK mutation, much more common than mine, can also do very well on targeted therapies for a substantial period of time. I don’t know as much about the other rare ones, but I do know that new targeted therapies are emerging all the time.
Another ROS1 blogger, Tori Tomalia, has posted this chart of genetic mutations in lung cancer. She writes, “See that tiny little pink sliver at 1%? That’s my tumor’s mutation!” Mine, too.
|Source: Targeting Tumors Early: Trials Push Novel Agents to Forefront|
Here is a link to Tori’s whole post: http://lil-lytnin.blogspot.com/2013/11/knowledge-is-power.html. The link on the chart takes you to a very informative article, too.
The big problem with targeted therapies is that cancer continues to develop new mutations over time, and eventually outsmarts the targeted drugs. These therapies buy us great health, but not forever. The next challenge, even while other mutations continue to be discovered, is to figure out how to keep the cancer from developing resistance to the targeted medicines. There’s also great promise in studies that offer targeted therapy for early-stage lung cancer.
*The original title of this post, “A chart of genetic mutations in lung cancer,” was inaccurate. This is a chart of genetic mutations in adenocarcinoma of the lung, one type of lung cancer. About 40 percent of all lung cancers are adenocarcinomas. I’m grateful to David Tom Cooke, M.D., a thoracic surgeon at UC Davis Health Center, for pointing this out.