‘Immune Checkpoint’ Drugs Show New Promise for Treating Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer


It has become routine practice to prescribe targeted drugs to patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), whose tumors harbor molecular alterations in EGFR, ALK, and ROS. However, the majority of patients with NSCLC have no targetable mutations and lack good treatment options. Enter immunotherapy drugs, specifically ‘immune checkpoint blockade antibodies,’ to which many refer simply as ‘anti-PD-1 drugs,’ or simply ‘PD-1 drugs.’ In this post, I provide some updates on the efficacy of anti-PD-1 and anti-PD-L1 drugs in lung cancer. Continue reading…


Super Patient: Genetic Testing Gives Lisa Goldman a Targeted Treatment for Lung Cancer


In October 2013, Lisa Goldman had a dry cough that wouldn’t go away. “It was bad enough that I went to the doctor, which I don’t do very often,” she says. He ordered a chest radiograph, said her lungs were clear, prescribed codeine cough syrup, and sent her home.

But she kept coughing, so she kept coming back. On her second visit, her doctor said her airways were irritated and prescribed an inhaler and antibiotics. By her third visit, she’d begun to cough up a bit of blood, but her doctor just repeated that her airways were irritated and prescribed steroids. Continue reading…


Super Patient: Chris Newman Seeks a Second Opinion—and Survives Lung Cancer


In late 2009, Chris Newman thought she was just another busy person who kept feeling run down. “I had profound fatigue for a year and two bouts of bronchitis,” recalls Chris, who was a lawyer at the time.

Then a bad case of pneumonia took her to the emergency room, where an X-ray revealed a large mass—nearly three inches across—and several small ones in her lungs. A biopsy showed she had non-small cell lung cancer, a PET scan for sugar uptake showed it was extremely aggressive, and genetic testing showed there was no targeted treatment for it. Continue reading…


Super Patient: Guido Tracks Side Effects from His Chemotherapy as a Young Adult


Sixteen years ago, Guido’s right leg hurt, but none of his doctors could figure out why. “I knew something was wrong, but nobody knew the reason. The worst thing was I didn’t know what to do about it,” says Guido, who was a college student in Austria at the time.

Tests didn’t show anything out of the ordinary, so he just had to live with the pain. But then, after nearly a year, it got so bad he was hospitalized—and this time X-rays revealed something growing around his thigh bone (femur). Genetic testing identified the growth as Ewing sarcoma, a rare cancer that usually affects children and adolescents. “It’s very uncommon in people in their 20s,” Guido says. “It’s not the first thing physicians think of.” Continue reading…


New Drugs Aim to Defeat Tumor Resistance to EGFR Inhibitors


In recent years, many people with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) have been successfully treated with drugs called EGFR inhibitors. But over time, most patients develop resistance, and the drugs stop working. Researchers are hard at work developing new drugs to help patients who can no longer be treated with EGFR inhibitors.

EGFR inhibitors get their name from a gene called EGFR. Many lung cancer tumors have mutations in this gene. These mutations convert EGFR from a normal gene into a cancer gene that initiates and promotes cancer growth. Approximately 10% to 15% of white and 30% to 35% of Asian patients with NSCLC have EGFR mutations. Continue reading…


Super Patient: Wade Hayes Beats Stage IV Colon Cancer—Twice


Country musician Wade Hayes had no idea he had colon cancer until it was almost too late. He’d had telltale signs: bleeding and lethargy—which is caused by anemia due to blood loss—for a couple of years. But these symptoms began when he was only 40 years old, a decade younger than when initial colon cancer screening is recommended. And he had no family history of the disease. Taking all of this into account, a doctor friend attributed Wade’s bleeding to his heavy weightlifting. Continue reading…


Immune System-Boosting Drugs, New and Old, Are Explored in Combination Treatments for Lung Cancer


Readers of this blog will already know a thing or two about immunotherapy (immune system-activating drugs) and targeted therapy in lung cancer. Both approaches have benefited many patients in recent years. Now, research is being done to combine immunotherapies with other types of drugs. Of particular interest are immunotherapies that target PD-1, PD-L1, and CTLA4. These drugs, also known as immune checkpoint antibodies, are being tested in combination with other drugs in patients participating in the clinical trials below. Continue reading…


ALCHEMIST Aims to Curtail Return of Early-Stage Lung Cancer


A series of three new clinical trials (research studies with volunteer patients) is big news for some people affected by early-stage lung cancer. The trials focus on two drugs typically used to treat late-stage adenocarcinoma. These two drugs, Tarceva and Xalkori, may also help stage I, II, and IIIA patients prevent relapse (return of cancer) after their tumors have been surgically removed. The new clinical trials will put the treatments to the test. Continue reading…


Super Patient: Cancer Commons Helps Francesca Keep Fighting Pancreatic Cancer


Update:  We are deeply saddened to report that Francesca passed away on October 31, 2014. Her warmth, intelligence, and bravery will continue to inspire us. It is a privilege to share her story and keep her memory alive.

In 2011, Francesca knew something was wrong. Her stomach hurt and was upset after eating, and she just didn’t feel right. She had also lost a lot of weight, but thought that was normal, considering her life at the time. “I was working fulltime and had just stopped breastfeeding,” she explains. So when she went in for a checkup, she expected to hear it was a stomach problem. Continue reading…