Breakthrough Medicines Usher in Hopeful Era for Lung Cancer Patients

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Breakthrough Medicines Usher in Hopeful Era for Lung Cancer Patients

lung_cancerThe Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF) applauds the medical research community and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for putting a heightened focus on lung cancer diagnostics and treatments. ALCF works everyday to educate patients and their families on the latest advancements, encourage participation in clinical trials and fund life-saving research on unmet medical needs to make these advances possible.

In 2015, the FDA approved seven new treatments for lung cancer patients, with five of these in the past 2 months. FDA programmes such as the Breakthrough Therapy designation, Accelerated Approval, Priority Review and the Fast Track designation have allowed the expedited approval of life-saving lung cancer medicines that address unmet medical needs and provide clinical benefit to patients.

“Lung cancer patients can now count on having a plan B in their back pocket when plan A stops working. The ALCF thanks the FDA for this foresight and getting these critical medications to lung cancer patients expeditiously, saving lives now,” said Bonnie Addario, 11-year lung cancer survivor and founder of the ALCF. “New approvals give patients new hope that they will live longer lives. The ALCF also thanks all patients who participate in clinical trials, making all these exciting advances possible.”

The FDA approved Nivolumab (Opdivo), the first immunotherapy drug targeting lung cancer on 4 March 2015 — 3 months ahead of schedule — to treat squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In July 2015, the FDA approved Gefitinib (Iressa) to treat patients with metastatic NSCLC whose tumours had mutations in EGFR. Within the past 2 months alone, five additional treatments are available to lung cancer patients.

  • Pembrolizumab (Keytruda), for patients with advanced, metastatic NSCLC whose disease has progressed after other treatments (chemotherapy or targeted therapy) and whose tumors express the protein PDL1
  • Nivolumab (Opdivo), for the treatment of both squamous and non-squamous NSCLC
  • Osimertinib (Tagrisso), for patients whose disease has progressed on EGFR-targeted therapies
  • Necitumumab (portrazza), for the treatment of advanced, metastatic squamous NSCLC patients who have not been previously treated for their advanced lung cancer
  • Alectinib (Alecensa), for patients with ALK (Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase)-rearranged metastatic NSCLC who have progressed on or are intolerant to crizotinib (Xalkori).

“In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared war on cancer, but we are just starting the war on lung cancer,” said Addario. “Advancements during the past year have been game changing. Genomic profiling makes it possible to target and treat specific cancer mutations. Immunotherapy completely upends traditional treatment options using medicines to boost a patient’s own immune system to fight their disease. Many of us have a second chance because of the doctors, scientists and medical researchers working on our behalf, providing new medicines and treatment options.”

The timely approval and availability of these therapies allow more families to think of lung cancer survival in terms of years, not just months, and provide hope to make lung cancer a chronically manageable disease by 2023.

Lung cancer is the top cancer killer of men and women, killing almost twice as many women as any other cancers. It accounts for 27% of all cancer deaths and is the second leading cause of all deaths in the US. Last year an estimated 4500 people under age 45 received a lung cancer diagnosis.

Diagnosed in 2015, 39-years-old former Olympic Trials finalist and Rose Bowl Aquatics head coach Jeff Julian was shocked when he found out he had Stage IV lung cancer. Because of his participation in a clinical trial for Opdivo, his tumours have significantly regressed and his disease is under control.

“I know firsthand that innovative treatments save countless lung cancer patients’ lives, including mine,” said Julian. “Today is a critical time for lung cancer research and a hopeful time for lung cancer patients like me. Now more than ever we need researchers and doctors to push the envelope and seek new treatments and new approaches to curing lung cancer.”

The ALCF works directly with patients and their families to educate them about the new and available treatment options. The ALCF established 20 Centers of Excellence nationwide in community hospitals that ensure all patients receive genomic testing to monitor for specific disease states and determine potential options for precision medicine and targeted treatments.

In addition, ALCF collaborates with 16 other lung cancer organizations on the Don’t Guess. Test. campaign to expand awareness and educate patients about precision medicine and the importance of comprehensive genomic testing in lung cancer, so that each patient receives the right treatment at the right time. “We now have an arsenal of new therapies and patients who are living well longer than previously imaginable. The stakes have never been higher for patients waiting for new medicines that could improve treatment, save lives and offer hope to families,” said Addario.