Proteomic Testing Recently Added to Standard Treatment Guidelines for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: What This and Other Recommended Tests Mean for Patients
If you have been searching for information about lung cancer treatment recently, it is likely that you discovered that doctors are performing genetic “biomarker” testing on tumor biopsies to test for changes in the genes EGFR and ALK. Patients with tumors that are positive for changes in EGFR or ALK (around 15-20% of patients with non-small cell lung cancer [NSCLC] in the United States) have been able to benefit from drugs that target the specific change.
Currently, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) recommends that patients receive genetic testing for EGFR and ALK, which require a biopsy of the tumor tissue in order to test the tumor directly. However, 25 to 30% of lung cancer patients do not have sufficient biopsy material or cannot undergo procedures to get the biopsy material needed for these types of genetic tests. More recently, there are several blood-based tests where changes in either EGFR or ALK genes can be measured by isolating tumor-associated DNA from blood. These so called ‘liquid biopsies’ make genetic testing easier on patients since the test doesn’t require any surgery.
Another breakthrough in blood-based testing is a proteomic test called VeriStrat®, which tests proteins instead of DNA, and has recently been added to the NCCN Guidelines. This test can help determine whether patients entering the second line of treatment for advanced NSCLC could be candidates for the targeted drug erlotinib, which may have fewer side effects and greater convenience over standard chemotherapy. Scientists and the medical community are continuing to progress their understanding of the biology of cancer and are developing other tests to help guide treatment decisions in a personalized way.
Tests like VeriStrat and others will help the medical community find the right treatment for the right patient at the right time. These exciting advances are redefining patient care in lung cancer and in medicine generally. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what tests might be right for you.