Targeted therapy involves using medications that kill cancer cells or stops them from growing without harming normal cells.
These medications are effective in treating lung cancer patients who have certain genetic mutations, which can be determined by testing a sample of tumor cells (biopsy).
For example, some targeted therapies block the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) protein, which promotes tumor development. Other drugs (such as erlotinib and gefitinib) inhibit the tyrosine kinase activity of epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR).
Both ALK-positive and EGFR-positive cancers are more commonly found in non-smokers as well as women and young people who are diagnosed with lung cancer.
For patients with these mutations, targeted therapies should be the first type of treatment used as they offer an aggressive, personalized approach that may be more successful at fighting their disease.
Several targeted therapies not yet on the market are available through clinical trials at the Duke Cancer Institute.
Learn how to make an appointment at the Duke Cancer Institute.