The outlook for non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has improved dramatically in recent years. Of all the types of lung cancer, it’s the most common.
Survival rates are better than ever, thanks to breakthrough therapies like immunotherapy and targeted drug treatment. There are also better screenings and improved approaches to care.
New Drug Therapies
In a relatively short time, there’s been a major uptick in FDA approvals of new meds that treat lung cancer. They include:
Targeted therapy drugs. These attack or target specific parts of your cancer cells that are different from your normal cells.
Immunotherapy drugs. This is another breakthrough in drug therapy. These fight your lung cancer by using your body’s natural defense system. They boost your immune system and guide it to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells.
Recent immunotherapy and targeted drugs approved by the FDA to treat NSCLC include:
- Adagrasib (Kratzati)
- Amivantamab-vmjw (Rybrevant)
- Atezolizumab (Tecentriq)
- Brigatinib (Alunbrig)
- Capmatinib (Tabrecta)
- Cemiplimab-rwlc (Libtayo)
- Dabrafenib (Tafinlar)
- Dacomitinib (Vizimpro)
- Durvalumab (Imfinzi)
- Entrectinib (Rozlytrek)
- Ipilimumab (Yervoy)
- Larotrectinib (Vitrakvi)
- Lorlatinib (Lorbrena)
- Mobocertinib (Exkivity)
- Nivolumab (Opdivo)
- Osimertinib (Tagrisso)
- Pembrolizumab (Keytruda)
- Pralsetinib (Gavreto)
- Selpercatinib (Retevmo)
- Sotorasib (Lumakras)
- Tepotinib (Tepmetko)
- Trametinib (Mekinist)
- Trastuzumab deruxtecan (Enhertu)
- Tremelimumab (Imjudo)
These breakthrough drug therapies can extend lives.
Everyone’s different. But by understanding your cancer better, your doctor can pick the treatments that’ll work best for you. That’s part of your personalized treatment plan.
Newly developed tests can help your doctor choose treatments to target the specific mutations of your cancer more precisely. These tests are called genetic and biomarker tests. The FDA recently approved three new ones:
- FoundationOne CDx. This diagnostic test helps your doctor see if you’re a good candidate for the drug alectinib or larotrectinib.
- Cobas EGFR Mutation Test V2. This test helps your doctor decide if you’re eligible for a type of therapy called EGFR inhibitor therapy.
- Guardant360 CDx Assay. This is a blood test, or liquid biopsy. It uses new sequencing technology to help your doctors find out if you have a specific mutation called EGFR.
A Team Approach
The newest approach to lung cancer care involves a multidisciplinary team, or MDT.
If you have an MDT, it means you have a variety of doctors and specialists who talk with each other and work together to give you comprehensive care.
MDTs are considered patient-centric, which means they’re focused on your needs. You make decisions about your treatment and care as a team. This is also called shared decision-making. It may help you feel better about your treatment decisions and your care.
Today, doctors consider MDTs, patient centricity, and shared decision-making the gold standards of care.
Their benefits include:
- Better diagnosis
- Better outcomes
- Better staging
- Better timelines
- Improved ongoing care
- Improved treatment planning
- Lower costs
- More efficiency
- Removal of barriers for coordinated care
When you have NSCLC, you may not have symptoms. That means that by the time you’re diagnosed, your cancer may have spread.
Now there’s a screening tool that may find lung cancer sooner than traditional chest X-rays. It’s called a low-dose CT (LDCT) scan. Studies suggest that if you’re at high risk of lung cancer, having an LDCT may lower your risk of dying from it.
When you have an LDCT, you lie down on a table while it slides in and out of an X-ray machine and takes different pictures of your lungs. Then a computer combines all of the pictures to create a complete, detailed image of your lungs.
If you’re at high risk of lung cancer – for example, if you smoke or used to smoke and you’re over 50 years old – your doctor may recommend that you have an LDCT scan every year.
On the Horizon
Even more advancements in NSCLC care may be coming down the road.
Experts, for instance, are studying vaccine therapy to see how vaccines may trigger your immune system to respond to antigens linked to tumors. Two types of vaccines that are now being studied to treat NSCLC are tumor vaccines and antigen-specific immunotherapy.
Other improvements include advances in overall care. For example, experts are finding new ways to improve the quality of care when you have stage III and stage IV NSCLC.
Advances in care may include:
- Better collaboration and communication between health care providers
- Improvements in shared decision-making
- Lowering the barriers to high-quality screening
- More awareness of diagnosis methods
- More awareness of current treatment guidelines
- More coordination of your health care
Lung cancer leads to more deaths in the United States than any other cancer, so it’s a top priority for doctors and researchers.
Fast development of new drug therapies, personalized treatment, multidisciplinary care, and improved screening have already helped doctors refine NSCLC treatment and care, and that’s likely to continue.
Photo Credit: Cecilie_Arcurs / E+ / Getty Images
JCO Oncology Practice: “Improving Care for Patients With Stage III or IV NSCLC: Learnings for Multidisciplinary Teams From the ACCC National Quality Survey.”
Targeted Therapies in Oncology: “New Quality Initiative for Patients With Advanced Lung Cancer Improves Care, Coordination.”
Translational Lung Cancer Research: “Non-small cell lung cancer: current treatment and future advances.”
American Cancer Society: “Can Lung Cancer Be Found Early?” “Recent Advances in Lung Cancer Treatment Resulting in Lower Death Rates.”
American Lung Association: “Saved by the Scan.”
ASCO Post: “Highlights from the IASLC 2022 World Conference on Lung Cancer.”
Association of Community Care Centers: “Improving Care Coordination for Advanced NSCLC.”
Lung Cancer Research Foundation: “FDA approvals in lung cancer treatment.”
National Cancer Institute: “New treatments spur sharp reduction in lung cancer mortality rate,” “Drugs Approved for Lung Cancer.”