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Chemotherapy advances pinpoint mutations for more personalized care

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Chemotherapy is a systemic therapy, and “in the past, lung cancer treatment was really a one-size-fits-all care,” says Russell K. Hales, M.D.  “Thanks to advances in treatment, we’ve been able to transition to more personalized care.  We can assess the tumor for changes that can be targeted with customized therapy, also known as molecular profiling.  These subtle changes in individual patients can then be targeted, and these targeted therapies can sometimes be very effective.”

Hales, who is a radiation oncologist at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center on the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus, shares an example of a mutation called EML for ALK, found in just one in 20 non-small-cell lung cancers, or 5 percent of patients.  The mutation leads to the tumor cell constantly making a protein that helps it to survive.  Knowing that this happens in 5% of patients, researchers several years ago developed a drug that uniquely targeted ALK, called Crizotinib and taken in pill form. The research, published in New England Journal of Medicine, showed a reduction in tumor size and other dramatic improvements in nearly every patient, he says.

“These target therapies are helping us to better identify unique therapies to personalize care for each patient,” Hales says. Find out more from Dr. Hales about lung cancer, treatments for it, and innovative new research to help lung cancer patients in the free webinar, Lung Cancer: Serious Treatment for a Serious Cancer.