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Most lung cancer treatments were originally designed as a one-size-fits-all approach. Now with advancements in medicine, targeted therapies are helping physicians personalize treatments to each unique cancer for more effective results.
At UCLA Health, our researchers and physicians are national leaders in the field of precision medicine. We combine advanced tumor testing with our expertise in targeted therapy to make sure every patient gets the most effective treatment possible.
Learn more about the Institute for Precision Health at UCLA Health.
What is targeted therapy for lung cancer?
Targeted therapy, also called precision medicine or personalized medicine, is a type of treatment that uses drugs to attack certain cancer cells. Cancer cells form when DNA changes (mutations) cause normal cells to grow and divide uncontrollably. Targeted therapy drugs focus on those mutations and disrupt the cancer cells’ ability to grow and function.
Each targeted drug pinpoints a specific mutation (molecular target). Only patients who have that mutation are candidates to receive that therapy.
Precision medicine at UCLA Health: our approach
At UCLA Health, we have experience and expertise in developing, studying and prescribing targeted therapy for lung cancer. We’ve seen how effective personalized treatment can be, and we want to offer that opportunity to as many patients as possible.
Our lung cancer team takes extra steps to learn as much as we can about every lung cancer we diagnose. We offer advanced diagnostic testing for every person diagnosed with lung cancer to identify the cancer’s molecular target. If we find a mutation, we’ll prescribe targeted medication in the form of a pill that you take at home.
Precision medicine for lung cancer: the UCLA Health advantage
At UCLA Health, you’ll find:
Leaders in personalized medicine: We’re part of the Lung Cancer Mutation Consortium (LCMC), a select group of 20 cancer centers dedicated to precision medicine for lung cancer. We play an important role in developing and advancing promising new targeted therapies.
Precise diagnosis: Our pulmonary pathologists (physicians who study body tissue) specialize in lung tissue. They make an accurate diagnosis and identify any genetic changes that help physicians personalize your treatment.
Access to the newest therapies: Our research directly impacts you as a patient. We offer targeted therapy as standard treatment whenever appropriate. You’ll also have access to promising new therapies through clinical trials only available at academic centers like UCLA Health.
Lung cancer genetic mutations treated with targeted therapy
At this time, targeted drugs are used most often to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with specific genetic mutations. If you qualify for targeted therapy, you may receive it either on its own or along with chemotherapy.
Therapies that treat NSCLC may target mutations including:
- EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) mutations, identified in about 10 to 15% of people with lung cancer
- ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) fusion, found in about 5% of people with NSCLC
- NTRK fusion, found in a range of cancers
- BRAF V600E, which can cause cancer cells to grow and spread
- MET exon 14 skipping, found in more than 3% of people diagnosed with NSCLC
- RET fusion, found in up to 2% of all NSCLC cases
- ROS1 genetic changes, rare mutations affecting cell growth
Managing targeted therapy side effects
Everyone responds to cancer treatment differently. Some people may not experience any side effects with targeted therapy, while others may have a more severe reaction. Side effects of targeted therapy may include:
- Dry skin
- High blood pressure
If you experience side effects from targeted therapy, the Simms/Mann Center for Integrative Oncology offers support programs to help you manage those symptoms. We aim to keep you comfortable during your treatment.