Big changes in small cell lung cancer give patients options they never had before
(Diane Mulligan) - Lung cancer is the deadliest of all major cancers, with Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) patients having a significantly lower survival rate than non-small cell lung cancer patients (NSCLC).
In 2012, the National Cancer Institute identified SCLC as a top priority. More targeted and personalized treatments are expected to be released soon. There are also many clinical trials focusing on SCLC. The new research is leading to new treatments and new hope, which can't come quickly enough for SCLC patients.
SCLC is different from NSCLC, which is the most common form of lung cancer. It is the most aggressive form of lung cancer and the one most closely associated with smokers. The SCLC tumors morph as they try to survive. They change their form, trying to hide from the current treatment.
Lung cancer researchers are now focused on treatments that target specific tumors.
Dr. Triparna Sen, Associate Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Health System says, “Do we have targets? Yes, we do have targets. Do they look promising? Yes, they do look promising. It will not be one size fits all.”
Most SCLC patients are treated with chemotherapy, but there have been recent advances in using immunotherapy along with chemotherapy. Patients who have finished their initial treatment now have new options and should talk to their doctor about new treatments being researched in clinical trials. In most of these trials, one set of patients receives the latest approved treatment while the other set receives the treatment being researched.
According to Lung Cancer Foundation of America Founder Kim Norris, “These clinical trials are where patients are getting the gold standard of care. They may be receiving the treatments of tomorrow, today.”
It was only last year when the first SCLC treatment breakthrough was announced. Then researchers identified a subset of SCLC patients who appear to respond to drugs that are already proven cancer fighters; the proteins in the tumors of these patients make them more receptive to targeted therapies.
The Lung Cancer Foundation of America provides initial funding to young investigators who are studying all types of lung cancer. The group was organized after the co-founder, Kim Norris, realized that although it was the deadliest of all the major cancers, lung cancer received the least amount of federal funding in relation to other major cancers.
Norris says, “It’s that funding that allows the best and brightest young investigators to choose to study lung cancer.”
To find out the latest on lung cancer research and how you can help, you can go to lcfamerica.org.
Above image: Dr. Triparna Sen, Associate Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Health System