A pair of lungs with two targets, both have an arrow in the bullseye

Understanding Targeted Therapies in Lung Cancer (Part 1)

In early spring before brakes were put on virtually everyone’s meetings and plans for 2020, I had the opportunity to attend the Targeted Therapies in Lung Cancer Conference in Santa Monica, California, with several colleagues and fellow advocates.

Research is taking incredible steps forward

This conference has been hosted by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer for the past 20 years. I am amazed that researchers have been coming together to discuss progress in targeted therapies since Y2K. Until more recent years, with the onset of many novel FDA-approved treatments, few patients had been aware of the research being undertaken in this area.

In addition to the development of these new anti-cancer drugs, there is a paradigm shift embracing the patient perspective. We, as patients and advocates, rejoice with researchers over every step of progress made. After all, research means more to lung cancer advocates than simply scientific progress.

It means lives saved -- literally.

My first time attending a targeted therapy conference

Even though I have been a lung cancer survivor/advocate for nearly 15 years, this was my first time attending the Targeted Therapy conference. A pharmaceutical company provided support for me and other advocates to attend the conference. Plus, IASLC waived registration fees for us to attend the four-day conference.

I have attended other scientific meetings over the years, including ASCO’s annual conference in Chicago and the IASLC’s World Conference on Lung Cancer. So, I thought I knew what to expect at the Targeted Therapies conference. This scientific meeting was somewhat different from the others, though.

At first, my head was spinning

Basically, there was a series of five-minute presentations given on a number of scientific topics, sort of grouped together. Of course, everything was central to targeted therapies for lung cancer. For example, several presentations focused on the topic of EGFR were grouped together and presented during a or KRAS. Each presentation was packed full of complex scientific data, charts, and other information.

Frankly, at first, it made my head spin. I barely had time to glance at a complex slide -- much less understand the details -- then it disappeared!

But after a while, little by little, I started understanding the science. Not that I necessarily retained details of the presentations; however, as I hear new developments about the research, my memory begins recalling what I was introduced to at the conference.

To be an effective advocate, I have to understand the science

In science, as in life, a favorite Scripture comes to mind. "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little." (Isaiah 28:10)

I shared previously about my struggle with science. But, to be an effective advocate, it is important to understand certain scientific concepts. That means I must apply myself to study and learn these concepts. Gradually, one precept builds upon another. It is a never-ending process -- not only for me -- but also for scientists.

Everyone could benefit from learning more about science

I found myself drawn to topics addressing the specific biomarkers of some of the other lung cancer patient advocates attending the conference. But every lung cancer advocate could benefit from a little cross-training and learn at least the basics about biomarkers and corresponding targeted therapies outside their own biomarker group.

Read the continuation of Understanding Targeted Therapies in Lung Cancer (Part 2).

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