Last year was an exciting year for lung cancer research with more U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval decisions relevant to lung cancer than ever before. So, what can we expect for 2019? Another eventful year with researchers studying how to best give the approved drugs (i.e. what order and combinations) as well as expanding the options with more types of therapies.
IMMUNOTHERAPY IN NON-SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER
First, there is the rapidly growing field of immunotherapy. We have four approved immunotherapies called checkpoint inhibitors available in the U.S. for non-small cell lung cancer. We have already seen approvals of these drugs combined with chemotherapy. Can they be combined with other treatments, including other checkpoint inhibitors or other kinds of immunotherapy? There is a lot still to learn about how to best give these drugs to patients plus there are other types of immunotherapy that are in development for lung cancer. The number of clinical trials in this field has exploded as researchers aim to use these drugs most effectively for our patients.
IMMUNOTHERAPY IN SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER
Excitingly, we expect to see more immunotherapy options for small cell lung cancer this year too. Last year, we had the first approval in over 20 years for small cell when an immunotherapy was approved as a third-line treatment. Currently, the FDA is reviewing a promising immunotherapy-chemotherapy combination for first-line small cell treatment. Unfortunately, with the current government shutdown the exact timeline for approval of this combination is unknown, but we anticipate that it will happen in the first half of 2019. We are pleased to continue to see new advances for patients with small cell.
Along with the immunotherapy advances, new research continues to expand the number of targeted therapies. With the recent approval of larotrectinib for adult and pediatric cancers (including lung), we now have targeted therapies for patients whose cancers have gene changes in EGFR, ALK, ROS, BRAF or NTRK. In 2019, we are closely watching exciting new drugs and research on changes in HER2, MET and RET as well! All of these advances underscore the importance of molecular testing/biomarker testing of lung cancer so that the best treatments can be chosen for the patient’s specific cancer.
In summary, 2019 looks to be another big year for lung cancer research progress! The Science & Research team of Lung Cancer Alliance will continue to bring you the latest news from major medical meetings throughout the year.