Treatment Advancements Thanks to Biomarker Testing
Last updated: January 2020
If you’ve been recently diagnosed with lung cancer, talk to your oncologist about genetic testing, also known as molecular profiling or biomarker testing of your tumor. You want this done before treatment starts to determine what treatment is best for you.
Biomarker testing offered me immunotherapy
When I was first diagnosed I had no clue what any of the terminologies meant, much less biomarker testing! I was blessed with my second oncologist who was on top of it and had the test done. The test showed that I had an elevated PD-L1 which meant my particular cancer should respond well to immunotherapy. Because of this finding, my first-line treatment was immunotherapy instead of traditional platinum-based chemo.
What's driving your cancer?
I read that in the past lung cancers were broke down into around five types; we now know that no two lung cancers are the same as no two fingerprints are the same. So it is very important to see what is driving your cancer. The use of biomarkers today is to identify which therapies a particular patient’s cancer may or may not respond to.
Getting the best treatment
Biomarker tests that are available can provide vital information that can mean the difference between effective and ineffective treatments, or how aggressive treatments must be to keep cancer in check.
There is now liquid (blood) biopsy or tissue biopsy. Biopsies are necessary for people with lung cancer. It can help your doctors diagnose the type of cancer, but also learn more about what is driving your cancer to find the best treatments based on which mutations are feeding the disease.
I know that tissue biopsies are invasive and can be painful. I have had a couple. It is possible that there may not even be enough cancer tissue for doctors to get the answers they need. So, now we have the liquid biopsy as well. According to some cancer researchers they have found that liquid biopsies are as effective in finding and identifying important mutations in non-small cell lung cancer.
Some known mutations
Some known mutations that have been found include:
- EGFR, which is also known as epidermal growth factor receptor. One in four people diagnosed with NSCLC has cancer that tests positive for the EGFR biomarker.
- ALK which is short for the anaplastic lymphoma receptor tyrosine kinase gene.
- BRAF mutations have been reported in 3 percent of non-small cell lung adenocarcinoma cancers.
- NTRK also known as Neurotrophic tropomyosin receptor kinase.
- PD-L1 programmed death ligand 1.
- HER2 human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.
- ROS1 positive lung cancer accounts for only one to two percent of lung cancers.
Always ask about biomarker testing
If you haven’t had biomarker testing, please ask for it. It can determine the best treatment for your lung cancer. What I’ve learned since my diagnosis in 2015 and said earlier in this article which I feel is worth repeating, no two lung cancers are the same. Just like fingerprints they each are unique and you want the best possible treatment for you. Researchers are identifying more mutations that will lead to more targeted treatments.
Happy Lung Cancer Awareness Month! What does self-advocacy mean to you?