Biomarker Testing Tool Empowers Patients With Lung Cancer

CURECURE® Lung Cancer 2021 Special Issue

The Cancer Support Community's Biomarker Testing Tool can help identify which targeted therapy should be used for treatment in patients with lung cancer.

Targeted therapy is changing cancer treatment. Testing the tumor tissue, blood or bodily fluid

of someone with cancer reveals the levels of genomic biomarkers in the person’s cancer. These biomarkers — often referred to by a three- or four-letter abbreviation, such as ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) or EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) — help identify the cancer’s subtype. This process is called biomarker testing or molecular testing. Once the subtype has been found, a targeted therapy approved for that subtype can be used in treatment.

Targeted therapy drugs have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as treatments for eight subtypes in non-small cell lung cancer alone. Like many major advances in cancer research, this has led to both improved treatment outcomes and a more complex treatment process for people with cancer. It is not always easy for people with cancer to access biomarker testing through their health care team. Even if they can, biomarker testing reports are often long and full of medical language. For these reasons, biomarker testing can be a discouraging process for people with cancer and their loved ones. This process can be made more complex by factors such as the stage of their cancer and whether it is a recurrence of cancer, which may limit or expand their targeted therapy options.

With this in mind, Cancer Support Community has developed a new tool for people with lung cancer and their loved ones. This platform asks a few brief questions and then connects users with specific information about how to receive biomarker testing, how to read results, which treatment options match their subtype, targeted therapies still in clinical trials and how to talk with their health care team about biomarker testing and targeted therapy. As targeted therapies are continually being approved for new subtypes, the tool is updated often to make sure users have access to the most correct and complete information available.

The tool also gives resources based on how much users already know about biomarker testing. Those who have not gotten biomarker testing receive information about the testing process and how to access it if it is not offered by their health care team. Those who have gotten biomarker testing and have their results receive information on how to read their results and what targeted therapy drugs may be a good fit based on their subtype.

“Oh, my God, this would have made it so much easier,” says the husband of a lung cancer survivor after trying the tool, thinking about when his wife was told that targeted therapy may be an option. “I spent two months scouring the internet to educate myself. I look back and really do not know how we got through this time. If I had one website to go to, the amount of time and worry I spent searching the internet would have been much less.”

The Biomarker Testing Tool can be used by any person with lung cancer no matter their cancer stage, cancer subtype or smoking history. It can also be used by caregivers and loved ones of people with lung cancer to answer the questions from the point of view of the person with cancer.

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Image of Dr. Minesh Mehta at ASCO 2024.