Using Genomics to Improve Lung Cancer Treatment

Using Genomics to Improve Lung Cancer Treatment

Genomics – the study of the genetic makeup of an organism – helps researchers and oncologists pinpoint why there is no routine lung cancer.

Every lung cancer has a unique set of genetic abnormalities, and studying an individual’s genomics allows experts to gain insights into that person’s unique cancer.

“It could be the genomics that you inherit from your parents that predisposes you to developing cancer,” says David Carbone, MD, PhD, a medical oncologist at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) and director of the Thoracic Oncology Center. “Or, it could be the genomics of the tumors as they acquire new damage to genes in the process of becoming a cancer, and those damaged genes drive the cancer.”

By understanding which genes drive the cancer, experts are able to identify appropriate targeted treatments for each patient.

“When we get the treatment matched properly to the genetic background of the tumor, we see some really dramatic responses in patient benefit,” Carbone explains. “Genomics is an incredibly important first step in picking therapy for lung cancer.”

Experts at the OSUCCC – James The James are taking genomics one step further in relation to lung cancer research and treatment with the launch of the INHERIT clinical trial, designed to study an inherited genetic abnormality that predisposes people to lung cancer.

“This abnormality is very rare, but sometimes we find it in patients with lung cancer,” Carbone says. “Then we can look at their family members to see who has inherited this gene and may not know they have it.”

This allows family members with the inherited abnormality to undergo lung cancer screenings that can detect it at an earlier stage, and it allows physicians to predict risk of lung cancer.

“I've already found two families in my own clinic that have multiple lung cancers in the family with this inherited gene,” Carbone says. “When we tested younger members of the family, we found that, despite never having smoked, those who've inherited this gene have a lung tumor when you do a CT scan.”

To learn more about advances in lung cancer research, watch this week’s segment of Toward a Cancer-Free World. Visit cancer.osu.edu for more information on clinical trials at the OSUCCC – James.