Targeted Therapies for Lung Cancer

Customized Therapies for Specific Tumors

WGN cracking the code of cancer cells » View a WGN TV report featuring Ravi Salgia, MD, PhD, talking about targeted therapy for lung cancer. Meghan O'Brien, a UChicago Medicine patient with lung cancer that tested positive for the ALK mutation, is profiled in this video.

The latest treatments for lung cancer are medicines that interfere with the growth and spread of cancer cells. Called targeted therapies, these medicines are used along with chemotherapy and radiation. They are sometimes referred to as molecular-targeted drugs because they focus on specific changes that occur in cells when they become cancer.

Targeted therapies are promising because they may produce fewer side effects than other treatments, such as chemotherapy. Some types of targeted therapies include:

  • Small-molecule inhibitors, which block enzymes needed for cancer growth
  • Monoclonal antibodies, angiogenesis inhibitors, and gene therapies, which work in different ways to halt cancer. Researchers have discovered that one of the newest ways to treat cancer is by cutting off the blood supply to tumors. For instance, angiogenesis inhibitors are used this way to treat some types of lung cancer.
Dr. Ravi Salgia Learn how Ravi Salgia, MD, PhD, used targeted therapy to help a lung cancer patient. » Read the story

One example of a targeted therapy is erlotinib, which is used to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer. It works by targeting a genetic mutation called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which is produced by cancer cells.

Recently, new types of targeted therapies have been approved to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer. One large trial found that patients who received the drug bevacizumab plus chemotherapy had better outcomes than patients who received just chemotherapy.