I Have EGFR Lung Cancer
When I was diagnosed with lung cancer everything went so fast but also slow at the same time. I remember sitting and waiting in what felt like a million doctors’ appointments. I was told I had cancer and I sought out a second opinion. She sent me for a bronchoscopy procedure and a brain MRI. What I didn’t know was she has sent the tumor sample from the bronchoscopy out for biomarker testing. It came back with an EGFR exon 19 deletion. I cried because I thought this was bad, but so far it has only helped me.
Good news from my biomarker testing
My oncologist was happy to tell me the news and she explained rather quickly why it was good news as opposed to what I thought. She explained that by having this mutation I can be given a less invasive treatment and it would be a pill that I could take at home. That sounded better than having to come into the city for an infusion of a chemo drug that she had thought I was going to need. Having this mutation changed my treatment path to a targeted therapy drug, therefore, holding off chemotherapy for a short time.
What does EGFR positive mean?
What exactly does it mean for your tumor to be EGFR positive? EGFR stands for epidermal growth factor receptor. The epidermal growth factor receptor, EGFR, is a protein that drives cells to survive, proliferate, and spread. Certain mutations in EGFR cause the protein to activate, and some of these mutations are known to be vulnerable to medications that bind to and inhibit the protein.
There are currently 5 FDA-approved treatments for EGFR lung cancer. This includes Tagrisso (osimertinib) (Standard of care for first-line treatment), Tarceva (erlotinib), Gilotrif (afatinib), Iressa (gefitinib), Vizimpro (dacomitinib).
Facts about EGFR lung cancer
Here are a few interesting facts about EGFR lung cancer:
- Found in roughly 15 percent of people with lung cancer in the United States, but increases to 35 to 50 percent in people of Eastern Asian descent
- Found in people with the type of non-small cell lung cancer called lung adenocarcinoma
- More common in women than men
- Most common in people with lung adenocarcinoma
- Often found in people with little or no smoking history
- More common in young adults with lung cancer
- More common in Asians, especially people of East Asian heritage
More information can be found at the EGFR Resisters website.
Drawbacks to being EGFR positive
I am an active member of the EGFR Resisters patient-led group. I try my best to help out when I can in the Facebook group, and I also manage the EGFR Resisters Instagram page.
There are many benefits to having an EGFR mutated lung cancer but I have also found that there are a few negatives. EGFR mutated lung cancer does not do well with immunotherapy drugs. While this is an advancing area of medicine we are not yet to the point where I feel comfortable getting only immunotherapy.
Another downfall is that there are only 5 drugs that are FDA approved for EGFR cancer. I have been on Tarceva for almost 5 years and I have already been on Afatinib and Tagrisso. Therefore, EGFR cancer research is so important. We must find the next best treatment!
Where have you found the most support during your lung cancer journey?