Reflecting on the Scientific Advances of Lung Cancer in 2018

Upal Basu Roy, MPH, PhD, Senior Director of Research

At LUNGevity, we are incredibly excited to welcome 2019 and see what advances this new year will bring! As we look forward, it’s important to remember all the advancements that 2018 brought us. 

2018 was an exciting year: the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved 8 new treatment approaches for lung cancer (of which 4 are biomarker-driven), PhRMA listed 132 new treatment approaches for lung cancer in development, and results of the Nelson trial on lung cancer screening in Europe were disclosed.

2018 was a significant year of firsts:

  1. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) scored a big win. Results from the IMpower 133 clinical trial showed that the addition of an immunotherapy drug, atezolizumab, to the standard chemotherapy regimen for SCLC is beneficial. The standard of care for SCLC has been chemotherapy for the past 30 years, so this is indeed a big deal!

  2. A new drug, larotrectinib, was approved for the treatment for adenocarcinoma patients whose cancers test positive for an NTRK1 mutation. Not only does this approval provide treatment options for a driver mutation that was previously treated with chemotherapy, the approval of larotrectinib is tissue-agnostic: the drug was approved for use in many different cancers that have the NTRK mutation. In the future, we will expect to see these types of tissue-agnostic approvals as cancers from different organs that have the same driver mutation show sensitivity to the same drug

  3. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized a National Coverage Determination that covers diagnostic laboratory tests using FDA-approved Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) for patients with advanced cancer. This step taken by the CMS is critical to ensuring coverage for biomarker testing and setting a precedent for other payers, so that patients can benefit from the progress in precision medicine

  4. Patients from different oncogene groups, such as the ROS1ders, EGFR Resisters, and ALK Positive, are being invited to present at more and more academic conferences, such as the World Conference on Lung Cancer, and are driving change that is relevant to them. This new paradigm highlights the importance of partnering with these groups and patients directly to accelerate research that is truly patient-centric.

  5. LUNGevity funded the first-ever ALK Positive Transformational Research Awards. The three projects selected aim to understand how immunotherapy can be used for ALK-positive patients. To date, the success of lung cancer immunotherapy has been restricted to advanced-stage non-small cell lung cancer patients whose cancers do not have any driver mutations such as ALK. These new projects will uncover why immunotherapy has not been successful in treating ALK-positive lung cancer and test new immunotherapy approaches in ALK-positive lung cancer

This list, in no way, shape, or form, is complete. Now, big question now is—what will 2019 bring? We have big hopes for 2019 and cannot wait to see what the New Year will bring. We hope you share in this excitement too!



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Dr. Basu Roy is LUNGevity's Senior director of Research. Dr. Upal Basu Roy

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