Another Year of Lung Cancer Advancements Expected in 2017

2016 was an exciting year for non-small cell lung cancer, and more advances are expected for 2017. 
BY GINA COLUMBUS @ginacolumbusonc
Things are looking up for lung cancer care for the year 2017, especially following the exciting advances last year in treating non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in 2016.

In October 2016, the FDA approved Keytruda (pembrolizumab) for the frontline treatment of patients with metastatic NSCLC whose tumors have more than 50 percent PD-L1 expression. The agent was previously approved for second-line NSCLC.

Also in October 2016, the FDA approved Tecentriq (atezolizumab) for the treatment of patients with metastatic NSCLC who have progressed after a platinum-containing regimen and an FDA-approved targeted therapy for those patients harboring EGFR or ALK abnormalities. 

Opdivo (nivolumab), which is approved by the FDA in second-line NSCLC, had negative first-line NSCLC results from the CheckMate-026 trial reported in October 2016 at the annual ESMO Congress. However, researchers have noted issues that contributed to the negative findings, including the PD-L1 expression inclusion criteria used in the study.

In a recent interview with CURE, Joel Neal, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Medicine (Oncology), Stanford University Medical Center, discussed how recent immunotherapy advances are transitioning the field of NSCLC and how the impact of molecular testing continues to shape treatment decisions.

What are some exciting advancements in lung cancer we have witnessed over the last year?

The biggest thing that comes first to mind is immunotherapy. After a couple of years, we are getting a better understanding of how immunotherapy works, who it works for, and who we should use it in. However, we haven’t quite figured out who we shouldn’t use it in yet. 

We are refining what our probability is that a given patient will respond to immunotherapy. There are three drugs that all have approval and a couple more waiting in the wings. The biggest questions are, who should we give it to in first line, who should we maybe wait for second line, and who should we wait for third line and beyond?

There are also some developments for targeted therapies. One of the big exciting stories for EGFR-mutant lung cancer was the T790M-active drug Tagrisso (osimertinib). Testing for T790M has become a very hot topic as that drug has become FDA approved, as well.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Lung Cancer CURE discussion group.
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