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"Exciting Data" Expected for Small Cell Lung Cancer
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Dr. Cathy Pietanza
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Dr. Cathy Pietanza

Guest post by Dr. Cathy Pietanza, a board-certified medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. She specializes in cancers that arise in the lungs and cares for a large number of patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC).

 

The 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Meeting likely will bring some exciting news for patients diagnosed with small cell lung cancer (SCLC), a malignancy that afflicts nearly 30,000 individuals in the US each year with corresponding poor outcomes.  This disease has not been well-studied for multiple reasons: patients often cannot provide enough of their tumors for evaluation, patients tend to be very sick at diagnosis, a lack of a true understanding of the biology of the malignancy, and not enough interest both on the part of researchers and pharmaceutical companies.   Therefore, the disease has lagged behind non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) for new breakthroughs and novel drugs for treatment.  However, this is starting to change and at this meeting, we will see exciting data. 

First, several research groups have taken on tremendous efforts to collect tumor tissue in SCLC and complete comprehensive genomic analyses.  These studies are important as they continue to provide information about the different mutations in SCLC and whether, like in NSCLC, these can be “targeted” with new drugs.  Further, these types of evaluations may lead us to predict which patients with the disease will do better (or worse) at the time they are diagnosed.  These genomic analyses have changed care in NSCLC and we hope that the reports provided at ASCO may begin to do the same in SCLC. 

We will see early data from studies evaluating new drugs in SCLC.  The most interesting aspect of most of the studies is that the novel agents are being developed to target specific proteins, receptors, and/or genes in SCLC.  The clinical trials are prospectively collecting SCLC tumor tissue and blood (particularly, circulating DNA and tumor cells) to determine if SCLC patients with high expression of these proteins, receptors and/or genes will have better outcomes when treated with the specific, corresponding drugs. 

Lastly, immunotherapies have FINALLY been studied in SCLC patients and we will discover the results of two large studies.  For several years now, we have heard and seen how successful these drugs have been in NSCLC patients.  Studying these agents in SCLC has lagged behind.  However, the results of these studies have potential to greatly impact how we treat SCLC and more importantly, make a difference in the lives of patients with this disease.   

I am anticipating that this ASCO will bear great news for SCLC.  And I hope that it will be the impetus to increase the number of studies done in this disease, to bring greater drugs to the FDA for approval in this malignancy, and most importantly, to improve the lives of SCLC patients. 

The ASCO Annual Meeting brings together 30,000 oncology professionals from around the world. Educational sessions feature world-renowned faculty discussing state-of-the-art treatment modalities, new therapies, and ongoing controversies in the field. The meeting will take place May 29 – June  2, 2015.  

Follow all of the ASCO happenings on Twitter at #ASCO15, @cancerGRACE, and @jackwestmd.

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