Tag Archive for: EGFR

Lung Cancer Biomarker Disparities | How Precision Medicine and Research Can Help

Lung Cancer Biomarker Disparities | How Precision Medicine and Research Can Help from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can lung cancer research and precision medicine help with biomarker disparities? Experts Dr. Joshua Sabari from NYU Langone and Dr. Eugene Manley from SCHEQ Foundation discuss testing factors that need improvement, patient groups that show disparities, and how clinical trial participation can move research forward.

[ACT]IVATION TIP

“…we really have to more universally test everyone equally to really have an impact on outcomes.”

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Hope Unleashed: Advancing Therapies for Defiant Mutations in Lung Cancer

Hope Unleashed: Advancing Therapies for Defiant Mutations in Lung Cancer

Maximizing Biomarker Equity: Leveraging Partnerships to Close Biomarker Disparities in Lung Cancer

Maximizing Biomarker Equity: Leveraging Partnerships to Close Biomarker Disparities in Lung Cancer

How Can We Leverage Lung Cancer Biomarker Data to Address Health Disparities?

How Can We Leverage Lung Cancer Biomarker Data to Address Health Disparities

Transcript:

Lisa Hatifeld:

So, how can advancements in precision medicine be made more inclusive and equitable to ensure that biomarker-driven treatments benefit diverse populations equally? Second part is, what do you see as the most pressing research priorities in understanding and mitigating these biomarker disparities?

Dr. Joshua Sabari:

So I think first and foremost, testing is key. I mean, educating clinicians, healthcare providers, that every single patient, no matter what clinical characteristic that may be, age, sex, ethnicity, race needs to be tested broadly with the same mutational sort of profile or same biomarker profile. Having somebody in your office who never smoked, those patients generally will have broad panel and next generation sequencing. If you have an 85-year-old patient who is a former heavy smoker, the rate of mutational testing comes down.

So I think we need to remove that bias, that those clinical biases that we have, that we carry with us on a day-to-day basis. We need to test all patients with lung cancer regardless of any clinical characteristic. And what I tell my fellows, my residents, and what I talk to patients about is really all you need is lungs to develop lung cancer.

We need to remove that stigma and when we remove that stigma, we will be testing more broadly in our practices. There are also a lot of systemic biases, a lot of racism that exists, that prevents clinicians, I believe, from doing the best thing for their patients. And if you look at clinical trial enrollment in this country and that’s something that we do need to improve in order to develop better treatment options for our patients, particularly our patients of Latin American descent or Black Americans in the United States.

We need to enroll more patients of more diverse backgrounds onto our trials. Otherwise, we’re only limiting our treatments to specific or small percent of our patient population. So to be honest, I don’t know how well our EGFR inhibitors work in Black patients. I know it’s approved and we utilize it, but we don’t have nearly as much data prospectively treating novel therapies.

A lot of our trials have inclusion rates as low as 2 percent to 3 percent. And we know that our Black patient populations make up 13 percent to 15 percent of our practices. So I think more needs to be done to align our enrollment on trial, I think from institutional policies as well as governmental. So the FDA has really made a forceful statement here to pharmaceutical companies that if your data is not inclusive of a U.S. patient population, this will have ramifications for approvals in the future.

So a lot needs to be done in the sense of education both from the healthcare provider and…but also from the patient, and to really motivate patients to enroll in trials. And one positive that I’ve seen from the patient support groups, the advocacy groups, particularly EGFR Resisters Group, for example, we’ve seen a tremendous sort of push for patients to enroll on trials, again, to benefit themselves as an individual patient diagnosed with EGFR mutant lung cancer, but also to help those who come before or after them in their journey with lung cancer.

Lisa Hatfield:

And, Dr. Manley, do you have anything to add to that?

Dr. Eugene Manley:

I think he hit most of it, but I will say that you have to test everyone because there are people that have risk factors for lung cancer and those that don’t. And like, one of the leading risk factors is history of smoking, but there’s a significant population of specifically Asian females that don’t smoke. Even recently, that have been showing that Black women that don’t smoke also have increased rates of lung cancer. And these are, we don’t know why.

So we still need to be able to test all these patients across all the indications and maybe cross-reference with stress income, socioeconomic status and really try to determine maybe if there are certain specific drivers and what we didn’t talk about. We know that there are some epigenetic changes that may occur due to stress. We also know that there are some changes in tumor mutational burden, some stuff out of MSK. And I think there is some stuff that even shows differences in the immunomarker frequency and response in Black populations. So, we really have to more universally test everyone equally to really have an impact on outcomes.


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Hope Unleashed: Advancing Therapies for Defiant Mutations in Lung Cancer

Hope Unleashed: Advancing Therapies for Defiant Mutations in Lung Cancer from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What promising studies in lung cancer mutations are there that patients should know about? Expert Dr. Joshua Sabari from NYU Langone discusses common lung cancer mutations, incidence rates, promising and potential studies, and proactive patient advice.

[ACT]IVATION TIP

“…no matter what your lung cancer type is, no matter any clinical characteristic, you need next generation sequencing done, biomarker testing done, to identify these mutations. And even when we identify the mutation, I think as a group, as an academic community, we need to do more to study novel therapeutics and to better understand the biology of these mutations so that we can get better treatments to our patients.”

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See More from [ACT]IVATED NSCLC Biomarkers

Related Resources:

Maximizing Biomarker Equity: Leveraging Partnerships to Close Biomarker Disparities in Lung Cancer

Maximizing Biomarker Equity: Leveraging Partnerships to Close Biomarker Disparities in Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer Biomarker Disparities | How Precision Medicine and Research Can Help

Lung Cancer Biomarker Disparities | How Precision Medicine and Research Can Help

How Can We Leverage Lung Cancer Biomarker Data to Address Health Disparities?

How Can We Leverage Lung Cancer Biomarker Data to Address Health Disparities

Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

Dr. Sabari, can you speak to some of the more defiant mutations in lung cancer, and what promising studies are we looking at right now?

Dr. Joshua Sabari:

Yeah, so I think in lung cancer the most common mutations that we see are EGFR and KRAS. EGFR mutations are a quite broad range of alterations. The most common are in exon 19 deletion and exon 21. These are the location of the mutations. They make up about 80 percent to 85 percent. We have phenomenal treatments in the frontline setting, but most patients only remain on therapy for about two years before there is progression. So, we need to better understand resistance mechanisms, and we need to better understand the next generation of therapies that are available.

In contrast to EGFR, KRAS is equally as common. We see this in about 25 percent to 30 percent of the patient population. Unlike EGFR, KRAS is almost exclusively seen in people who’ve smoked in the past. And there are many different KRAS mutations or alleles. There’s KRAS G12C where we have two FDA-approved match targeted therapies in the second-line setting.

But we need better options, better opportunities for our patients in the frontline setting. And for KRAS, we’re not doing as well as we should, right? KRAS mutations, most people have about a 30 percent to 40 percent chance of responding to therapy. And the median time on treatment is in that six to seven month range. So this is a defiant mutation. It’s a mutation where we need to do better and we need to really develop the next generation of inhibitors for our patients.

So I guess the activation tip here is, again, no matter what your lung cancer type is, no matter any clinical characteristic, you need next generation sequencing done, biomarker testing done, to identify these mutations. And even when we identify the mutation, I think as a group, as an academic community, we need to do more to study novel therapeutics and to better understand the biology of these mutations so that we can get better treatments to our patients.


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Equity in Action | Addressing Biomarker Disparities in Lung Cancer

Equity in Action: Addressing Biomarker Disparities in Lung Cancer from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can biomarker disparities be reduced in lung cancer patients? Experts Dr. Joshua Sabari from NYU Langone and Dr. Eugene Manley from SCHEQ Foundation discuss approaches that are being used for community engagement and further interventions that can be used to reduce disparities.

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See More from [ACT]IVATED NSCLC Biomarkers

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Understanding Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: Types, Biomarkers, and Treatment Insights

Understanding Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: Types, Biomarkers, and Treatment Insights

Navigating Lung Cancer Biomarker Testing | Challenges and Solutions for Timely Access

Navigating Lung Cancer Biomarker Testing | Challenges and Solutions for Timely Access

When Should Lung Cancer Patients Receive Biomarker Testing?

When Should Lung Cancer Patients Receive Biomarker Testing?

Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

So, Dr. Manley, are there any promising approaches or interventions aimed at reducing biomarker disparities that you’ve currently been exploring or are advocating for?

Dr. Eugene Manley:

I will take several angles on this. One thing is there has to be much more community engagement and involvement and really going to community groups, whether they’re faith-based, whether they’re barbershops, really going out where people are and letting them know about lung cancer, lung cancer disparities, biomarker testing, what you can do. The other way is also going to conferences where there are more diverse scholars that are attending. So a lot of these are STEMM meetings. They may not be specific in lung cancer, but if you can go out there and get the word out about lung cancer and the disparities, then they can go back to their families and talk about, you know, screening and testing and making sure that their family members are aware.

And then, you know, we just published a paper recently that shows the upstream part of biomarker testing is where are we starting at with our cell line? We just did a review of all the lung cancer cell lines. Of over 800 cell lines, majority were European-based. Only 31 cell lines in total were from Black African American populations. None were from Hispanic, none were from Native American, Pacific Islander, none from Alaska Native.

So just think about this. If that is our starting material for all of our biomarker testing and TCGA and databases, then everything we’re developing is on a population that already has great access and outcomes. But they don’t have the greatest disparities. So then you’re getting through doing all these trials, and then you have biomarkers, and you have immunotherapies coming out, and then you’re seeing adverse events in these diverse populations at the end because you don’t have the starting material.

Lisa Hatfield:

And, Dr. Sabari, after hearing Dr. Manley’s comments about that, how do you…or do you know of any approaches or interventions that are aimed at reducing these biomarker disparities? Because maybe they aren’t being acknowledged yet. Maybe they’re only being seen in certain populations.

Dr. Joshua Sabari:

Yeah, I think Dr. Manley hit it on the head. First off, we don’t even know the correct or true numbers for certain mutations in specific patient populations. And I just read an article about patients from Latin America, different rates of EGFR, ALK, and other mutations. You can imagine a study population from Africa, for example. And then obviously studying a population of Black Americans here in the United States as well.

We know that most of the cell lines, most of the data that we’ve had, particularly TCGA  (Tumor Cell Genome Atlas) is from a Caucasian or North European patient population. So I think we need to do better in that sense. I think equally as important, are clinical trial enrollment needs to diversify. Again, it’s mostly women. It’s mostly Caucasian women. We have very, very low rates of Hispanic patients enrolled on clinical trials, Blacks enrolled on clinical trials.

So I think we need to do better in that sense. One thing that we’ve really pushed for in academic medicine is to at least report who is being enrolled on trials so that we can understand is this data generalizable to my own clinical practice? And oftentimes if you look at the clinical characteristics of patients enrolled on the trial, it likely does not match what you see in your own practices.

So we need to do better in that sense. So I think the FDA, and especially pharmaceutical companies, are clearly looking to expand and broaden their inclusion criteria and also access to patients so that we can actually have a more diverse patient population that represents our country enrolled on these trials.


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When Should Lung Cancer Patients Receive Biomarker Testing?

When Should Lung Cancer Patients Receive Biomarker Testing? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Biomarker testing is vital for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients, but when should it happen? Expert Dr. Joshua Sabari from NYU Langone discusses cancer cell mutations and ideal timing for biomarker testing for the best patient care.

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See More from [ACT]IVATED NSCLC Biomarkers

Related Resources:

Understanding Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: Types, Biomarkers, and Treatment Insights

Understanding Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: Types, Biomarkers, and Treatment Insights

Navigating Lung Cancer Biomarker Testing | Challenges and Solutions for Timely Access

Navigating Lung Cancer Biomarker Testing | Challenges and Solutions for Timely Access

Equity in Action | Addressing Biomarker Disparities in Lung Cancer

Equity in Action | Addressing Biomarker Disparities in Lung Cancer

Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

And just from the patient perspective, does a patient need to be tested for these biomarkers throughout the course of their treatment, or is it done initially upon diagnosis or before second-line treatment?

Dr. Joshua Sabari:

Yeah, that’s a great question. You know, most mutations are clonal, meaning that they start in the original cancer cell and then the subsequent cells, daughter or son cells, also have that same mutation. So I would recommend doing next-generation sequencing up front in all patients. Now, some people have a specific mutation that we block with a targeted therapy. It could be pills. It could be an infusional targeted therapy. And that might change the sort of milieu or landscape of that mutational profile. So subsequently, after treatment, you may see acquired resistance or secondary mutations that will prevent the therapies from being effective. In those cases, I do recommend re-profiling.

So the most common example in lung cancer is the EGFR mutation, stands for epidermal growth factor receptor. We know that this mutation occurs in 20 to 25 percent of people diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. If you’re matched to a targeted therapy and don’t unfortunately have progression of disease, it may be very helpful to re-biopsy or re-sequence using both tissue and plasma to help us guide subsequent therapy. But if you do not have a targeted mutation and you’re treated with either chemotherapy and immunotherapy or immunotherapy alone, re-biopsy may not be as helpful in matching to further therapy.


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How Can We Advance Equitable Access to Precision Medicine in Lung Cancer Care?

How Can We Advance Equitable Access to Precision Medicine in Lung Cancer Care? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

With non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) precision medicine, what are disparities and strategies to equitable access? Expert Dr. Samuel Cykert from UNC School of Medicine discusses disparities, strategies to overcome disparities, and proactive patient advice toward optimal care.

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“…I know you do electronic health records, and as soon as this visit is done, you have data about my visit, so have you thought about creating a real-time registry to see how I’m progressing with my care and see how others are progressing with their care, whether to make sure that we don’t have missed appointments and to make sure that I’m not falling behind where I should be.”

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Enhancing Lung Cancer Care for Black and Latinx Patients | Tackling Challenges, Implementing Solutions

Enhancing Lung Cancer Care for Black and Latinx Patients | Tackling Challenges, Implementing Solutions

Improving Biomarker Testing Access for Rural Lung Cancer Patients

Improving Biomarker Testing Access for Rural Lung Cancer Patients

Empowering Lung Cancer Patients | Embracing Hope, Treatment, and Teamwork

Empowering Lung Cancer Patients | Embracing Hope, Treatment, and Teamwork

Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

Dr. Cykert, are there any disparities in access to biomarker testing for Black and Latinx patients with lung cancer compared to other racial or ethnic groups, and if so, what strategies or initiatives can be implemented to address these disparities and promote equitable access to precision medicine?

Dr. Samuel Cykert:

Yeah, biomarker testing followed up by precision medicine is really fairly new in the last half-dozen years, so there haven’t been a lot of studies done looking at how well we’re doing in different groups, but there’s a journal called The Journal of Clinical Oncology and precision medicine that published such a study in 2022.

And what that showed…and again, keep in mind that in a lot of…as they do in a lot of database studies, they are a couple of years behind, but what they showed in looking at the cases of over 20,000 patients, is that on first time testing, we talked about initial biopsies, when the initial biopsy is tested, there is actually about a 7 percent difference between Black and white patients with the white number being only 37 percent and the Black number being 30 percent, so that was low all the way around.

And then if you look at any biomolecular testing at any stage of the cancer, those numbers change to around 55 percent for white patients and 44 percent for Black patients, and I want to point out that for Asian patients and Latinx patients, the numbers were also low, but there weren’t enough patients in the database to achieve statistical significance, but it looks like things are going in the wrong direction there too, and when you think about it, in the state of the right now, those numbers ought to be close to 100 percent for everybody, at least in some of the basic markers like ALK and EGFR and PD-L1.

So there’s a lot of work to do. So there is a disparity. It has been documented, but we’re not getting perfect care to even anyone, and in the ACCURE (Accountability for Cancer Care through Undoing Racism and Equity) Study that I had described a little bit earlier, where we did an intervention, we created real-time transparency through up-to-date electronic health records and digital data of where patients were in their care, we were able to create a real-time registry to know what had been done for every patient, and in the case of precision medicine, this would be so easy, because you basically put every patient that’s had a lung cancer biopsy in the registry, then you have another column in the registry tested for X, tested for Y, tested for Z, and then you have a next column that says, treated for X, treated for Y, and treated for Z. We have the digital information now to do all this in real time, and we have to build the systems to do it.

Lisa Hatfield:

Could you share any examples of successful initiatives or programs aimed at improving the implementation of biomarker testing in lung cancer and what factors contribute to the success of these initiatives, and how can they be replicated or scaled in other healthcare settings?

Dr. Samuel Cykert:

I’ll have to plead my ignorance on this question because I haven’t talked to enough cancer centers on whether or not they’re creating real-time registries for whether all their patients with probable lung cancer are, [a] getting biopsied promptly, [b] getting biomarker testing, and then following those patients over time to see if they’re getting the treatments to match to that, so I know that at my own institution at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Cancer Center, we’re actively talking about building these systems, but we haven’t built them yet.

And so going back to the work that our UNC team has done in partnership with Greensboro Health Disparities Collaborative, we’ve done an intervention with real-time transparency in lung cancer treatment and breast cancer treatment, and real-time quality improvement and audit and feedback for accountability in those treatments and using navigation, particularly for high risk patients to make sure that they’re able to follow through with their diagnosis and treatment.

So with that combination in lung cancer, we got almost perfect care, 96 percent and 95 percent completing treatment, so there’s no reason that the same system cannot be applied to biomarker testing and biologic and immunotherapy, and we need to look at it and implement it and apply it as soon as possible, because when you think about all this, and I’m not just talking about cancer, but when you’re thinking about the whole picture, when you look at, for instance, Black, white disparities, whether it’s in cardiovascular care, whether it’s in diabetes, whether it’s in cancer care, if you look at the result of that in one year, if we brought up care to benchmark levels of the Black community on all those things, we would save 74,000 lives a year.

That’s incredibly impactful. And we need to quicken up the pace of doing this. I’ve been a disparities researcher and intervention researcher for over 20 years, and people really haven’t taken note of really doing interventions until the last five or six years. We need to pay attention, we need to move. It’s important. People’s lives depend on it. And care improved for everyone with these systems, it improved for white patients too. It’s not a zero-sum game.

Lisa Hatfield:

I’m wondering, as a patient, is there anything that I can do or that a patient can do to request or to ask if they use real-time data, that institution to help with the treatment or help with testing or whatever, is there a question the patient might be able to ask to ensure the real-time data is used? Because I imagine it’s not being used as often, so it could be, like you said, there probably isn’t a system in place.

Dr. Samuel Cykert:

Here’s my double activation tip. So at an institution, you don’t know if you have a problem until you look. So the first problem is, as I go back and look behind, am I making sure whether or not I’m seeing disparities, whether it’s a man, woman, Black, white, Latinx, do we have disparities in our treatment application and treatment outcomes in our institution? Because if we look at that, we can start brainstorming on how to possibly fix it, and then the second thing is, I know you do electronic health records, and as soon as this visit is done, you have data about my visit, so have you thought about creating a real-time registry to see how I’m progressing with my care and see how others are progressing with their care, whether to make sure that we don’t have missed appointments and to make sure that I’m not falling behind where I should be.

Lisa Hatfield:

Great, that’s perfect, thank you. Having the patients be…have that accountability too, to ask the question, if that exists, that real-time data, if there’s a way to use that. So thank you, I appreciate that myself personally, so thanks. 


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Tailored Approaches to Lung Cancer | The Crucial Role of Biomarker Testing

Tailored Approaches to Lung Cancer | The Crucial Role of Biomarker Testing from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How does biomarker testing factor into personalized non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treatment? Expert Dr. Samuel Cykert from UNC School of Medicine explains different ways that biomarker testing is used in personalizing treatment approaches and proactive patient advice for biomarker testing.

[ACT]IVATION TIP

“…have access to personalized medicine, whether it’s a surgical biopsy or a radiologic biopsy by a radiologist, you always make the statement. I would like biomarker testing for my biopsy specimen, and I would like to consider the testing that goes along with research protocols too.”

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See More from [ACT]IVATED Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

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Catalyzing Lung Cancer Care | The Transformative Impact of Early Biomarker Testing

Catalyzing Lung Cancer Care | The Transformative Impact of Early Biomarker Testing

Closing the Gap | Ensuring Equitable Access to Lung Cancer Biomarker Testing

Closing the Gap | Ensuring Equitable Access to Lung Cancer Biomarker Testing

Unveiling Racial Disparities in Early-Stage Lung Cancer Treatment

Unveiling Racial Disparities in Early-Stage Lung Cancer Treatment

Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

How does biomarker testing contribute to the personalized treatment approach for patients with non-small cell lung cancer, particularly in identifying actionable mutations like EGFR, BRAF, and other mutations?

Dr. Samuel Cykert:

Yeah, great, great question. Because some of these biomarkers tell you that there’s a specific treatment that will really, really work for you, and some of the biomarkers tell you there’ll be specific treatments that don’t.

And so the importance of them have to do with, again, you talk about personalized treatment, personalized treatment is getting a treatment that works for you, getting a treatment that works for the genetic component of your tumor, and so it’s really, really important that you differentiate, because again, there are studies that show certain immunotherapy medicines like pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo), that those medicines will work in certain situations, but in other situations, they really don’t, and there are other medicines, for instance,  tyrosine-kinase inhibitors that work, where in other situations, they don’t, and so it really is the definition of personalized medicine for lung cancer, knowing what’s going to work and what’s not going to work, and what your odds are in certain situations.

My activation tip is to have access to personalized medicine, whether it’s a surgical biopsy or a radiologic biopsy by a radiologist, you always make the statement. I would like biomarker testing for my biopsy specimen, and I would like to consider the testing that goes along with research protocols too.


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Advances in Small Cell Lung Cancer Research | Hope for the Future

Advances in Small Cell Lung Cancer Research | Hope for the Future from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What new treatments are being studied for small cell lung cancer (SCLC)? Dr. Triparna Sen, a leading researcher in the field, shares promising updates, including advances being made with LSD1 inhibitors, DDR (DNA Damage Response) inhibitors, and DLL-3 targeted therapies.

Dr. Triparna Sen is an associate professor in the department of oncological sciences and co-director of the Lung Cancer PDX Platform at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Learn more about Dr. Sen.

See More from Thrive Small Cell Lung Cancer

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Essential Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing

Essential Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing 

Expert Advice for Patients With Small Cell Lung Cancer

Expert Advice for Patients With Small Cell Lung Cancer

Understanding Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment Options

Understanding Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment Options

Transcript:

Katherine:

Dr. Sen, you are a leading researcher in the field. What is the latest research news that you can share with us about small cell lung cancer?

Dr. Sen:

There’s a lot of great research going on in my lab and labs all across the world. I think for the first time in a very long time, we are really trying to dissect the biology of small cell.   

It has been a research in making for many years. I think we have now really come to a point where we are really trying to understand the disease. I’ll go into a little more about the questions you are trying to answer. So, one of the main questions or one  of the main things that kind of is a hurdle to getting durable treatment options is that the frontline chemotherapy and immunotherapy doesn’t work as well as they should even for the approved regimens, which is the chemotherapy and the immunotherapy.  

The patients often do not have durable benefits. Even if patients have durable benefits, it’s only in a very minority of patient population which means in only about 10 to 15 percent of the total patient population actually do have any benefit from the frontline treatment. So, the main question that we are trying to answer is that why do these patients not respond to immunotherapy and chemotherapy in the frontline.  

What are the mechanisms of resistance to chemotherapy and immunotherapy? Primary resistance, what I mean by primary resistance is that patients who never respond. The disease comes back even while they’re getting the frontline chemo. So, the primary resistance, the mechanisms. Of course, when they have acquired resistance after the maintenance regimen when they come back, why are these patients having this acquired resistance to chemotherapy and immunotherapy? Because only when we understand resistance mechanisms will we be able to then come to the combination strategies.

That’s the next area of research is that once we understand the mechanism of chemotherapy and immunotherapy resistance is then coming up with effective combination therapy. So, what should we combine with immunotherapy in order to make immunotherapy better? I’ll give you an example from the research that we did. 

So, our lab focus is, as I said, on making immunotherapy better. What we understood is that there are certain epigenetic modifiers like LSD1.  

Repressing these, repressing LSD1, with a small molecule inhibitor actually augments or benefits the response to immunotherapy. So now, we are looking at LSD1 inhibitors in combination with immunotherapy. That’s one area that we are focusing on. The second are that we published extensively on is DNA damage response inhibitors which really works in combination with immunotherapy and makes immunotherapy response better.  

Now, we are investigating that in the lab the combination strategies of combining these DNA damage response inhibitors with immunotherapy. So, combination strategies. I think always coming up with novel targets. I will mention there are many novel targets that are right now in the clinical trials actually showing really, really encouraging data.  

I’m talking about DLL3 targeted BiTEs or ADCs we have seen that are showing preliminary data. We have seen a really good really good response in patients. So, finding these targets that are very specific for small cell and that can work in these unique population of patients.  

So, DLL3 targeted agents. There are agents that target B7-H3. So, we are looking at these novel targets and where they could fit in the current therapeutic regimen. Finally, since small cell lung cancer is not a surgical disease, we have to look for other options to find biomarkers. So, liquid biopsy. Liquid biopsy, what I mean by that is understanding the disease not just from tissue but also from blood.  

There’s a lot of research that’s happening in understanding the biology of small cell from blood draws from these patients.  

So, the field of using liquid biopsy or understanding the disease from blood draws is one of the areas that many labs, including ours, are focusing on, and how we can utilize these blood samples to then monitor the disease and also understand the resistance mechanisms to various drugs. I think these are the areas that we are investigating and seems, to me, very important areas that we need to address in order to really manage small cell lung cancer.   

Katherine:

What do these advances mean for small cell lung cancer patients? Are you hopeful?  

Dr. Sen:

Oh, yes. Of course. We’re always hopeful. That’s the goal, right. The goal is to have effective therapies that work and that works for a long time. That also benefits the patients in terms of quality of life which means without very severe adverse effects.   

So, very hopeful. Because I think what was limiting us for all those years for the last 40 to 50 years is that we really did not understand the complexity of small cell lung cancer. It is a very complex disease. It is very different from non-small cell lung cancer which has these mutations that you can target drugs against. So, there are this EGFR mutations and KRAS mutations in non-small cell.  

But small cell, it’s not that. It is not a disease where we have these GATA function mutations that we can devise therapies against. It’s a very different disease. The disease is aggressive. The disease progresses fast, and it also changes its physiology very fast. So, I think for the first time, we really are trying to understand the biology. What that helps is then to come with very informed decisions about therapy.  

So, yeah, I’m very hopeful. Because I think we have now targets that we are actually seeing benefits in patients. I think the more and more we understand resistance mechanisms, we’ll also be able to manage that better.   

Katherine:

That’s very promising news. 

Understanding Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment Options

Understanding Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment Options from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How is small cell lung cancer (SCLC) treated? Dr. Triparna Sen discusses treatment options for patients with small cell lung cancer, both first-line and second-line therapies, and the important role of clinical trials in patient care. 

Dr. Triparna Sen is an associate professor in the department of oncological sciences and co-director of the Lung Cancer PDX Platform at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Learn more about Dr. Sen.

See More from Thrive Small Cell Lung Cancer

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Essential Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing

Essential Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing 

Expert Advice for Patients With Small Cell Lung Cancer

Expert Advice for Patients With Small Cell Lung Cancer

Advances in Small Cell Lung Cancer Research | Hope for the Future

Advances in Small Cell Lung Cancer Research | Hope for the Future

Transcript:

Katherine:

How do test results impact care? 

Dr. Sen:

So, you know, once the doctor has confirmed the small cell lung cancer and we have confirmed what stage it is at – what I mean by staging is that it could be either a limited stage disease which is an early stage small cell, or it could be an extensive stage of small cell. The treatment for those two are quite different. So, if it is an early stage or limited stage, patients are usually treated with chemoradiation. If it is an extensive stage or a metastatic small cell, then patients are usually given a standard of care which is chemotherapy in culmination with immunotherapy which is an antibody against PD-L1.  

Katherine:

You’re talking about treatment options that are currently available for small cell lung cancer. What about targeted therapies?  

Dr. Sen:

There aren’t very many therapeutic strategies that are targeted therapies as we speak like we hear from non-small cell lung cancer.  

So currently, like I mentioned, the frontline treatment for small cell lung cancer is with chemotherapy and immunotherapy and maintenance with immunotherapy alone.  

Once the patient relapses, which often is the case – all patients actually have resistance to the frontline chemo-io (chemoimmunotherapy) at some point in time. Once they have a relapse disease, the second line of therapy until now is with either topotecan or irinotecan which are two topoisomerase inhibitors or with lurbinectedin which is in the second line.  

So, when it comes to targeted therapies, so far we a have seen, you know, the conventional way that we think about EGFR inhibitors or KRAS inhibitors, it hasn’t been the case so far with small cell lung cancer. It’s very limited in the current approved setting. But there are many clinical trials that are investigating several targeted therapies that are either targeting – I can speak about that more as I talk about research strategy. But there are many targeted agents that are targeting surface targets like DLL3, B7-H3, or SEZ6. There are other targets that are targeting things like DNA damage repair, proteins, or epigenetic regulators like LSD1. But so far in the approved setting, it is quite limited.  

Katherine:

When we look at what therapies are available, what treatment options are available, what are some typical side effects? How are they managed?  

Dr. Sen:

Some of the major side effects that you see, especially with a frontline chemo-io (chemoimmunotherapy), are very common like you see with other cancer types. Also, it’s usually myelosuppression.  

I think it is prevented or is managed either by dose reduction or treatment delays or treated with transfusion. There has been research that CDK4/6 inhibitors, trilaciclib, when treated with in combination with chemotherapy can bring down the side effects that we see with chemotherapy.  

Some of the immunotherapy related adverse events includes pneumonitis, colitis. They are usually treated with early steroids, treatment withholding, and also it could be leading to permanent discontinuation of the treatment if the adverse events are really severe. Those are mainly what we see we the chemo-io (chemoimmunotherapy) regimen that is given up front.  

Katherine:

Okay. What questions should someone be asking about their proposed treatment plan?  

Dr. Sen:

Right. So, I think, of course, first is what stage. The treatment will depend upon the stage of small cell. Usually, on the frontline, everyone is given chemotherapy and immunotherapy. 

It’s a systemic therapy that’s being given. But I think the patient should be asking questions like are there clinical trials available for me. Because there are multiple clinical trials right now in the frontline and the second line setting.  

So, I think definitely the patient should ask about the clinical trials that the qualify for. In terms of contributing to research, I think if there are options for them to either sign up for blood collection protocol or for tissue collection protocol, I think the patient should definitely enroll for that.   

Because that really helps our research strategy. But in terms of treatment, I think they should ask about available clinical trials that they qualify for.  

Katherine:

Let’s turn to clinical trials then. Patient participation, of course, is essential to finding new and better treatments. What would you say to someone who’s hesitant to participate in a clinical trial?  

Dr. Sen:

Yes. I mean, that’s often the thing. We hear about these novel drugs. They’re in trial. For a disease that’s that aggressive, I think once there is a relapse, I think clinical trials could be a very good option for patients. These are novel drugs that have come out of very robust research that we do in the lab. They can often work quite a bit. So, I think, of course, talk to your physicians. Talk to them at length about whether you do qualify for it. But if there is a trial at the center that you’re getting treated at and if the doctor advises that, I think enrolling in a clinical trial could be a very good option for patients, especially in the aggressive setting where there are not many options available for patients.  

As I mentioned here, research is my true north. I mean, all my lab does is understanding the biology of small cell. It’s extremely essential that we actually try to get the knowledge of the patient tumor. So, if you have availability of contributing either in terms of tissue or blood to research, I think I would advise and encourage patients to definitely contribute to that. 

PODCAST: What Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment is Right for You?

 

What’s the best approach for YOUR lung cancer? Dr. Isabel Preeshagul discusses the importance of engaging in your lung cancer care decisions, shares advice for working with your team to determine a treatment approach, and reviews factors that affect therapy options. Dr. Preeshagul also provides an update on the latest research and clinical trials.

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul is a thoracic medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Preeshagul.

Download Program Resource Guide

See More From INSIST! Lung Cancer


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Hello and welcome. I’m Katherine Banwell, your host for today’s program. Today, we’ll discuss the latest advances in non-small cell lung cancer care as part of our Insist series, which encourages patients to play an active role and insist on better care. Before we get into the discussion, please remember that this program is not a substitute for seeking medical advice. Please refer to your healthcare team about what might be best for you. Well, let’s meet our guest today. Joining me is Dr. Isabel Preeshagul. Dr. Preeshagul, it’s so good to have you with us. Thank you. Would you introduce yourself? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yes. Thank you so much for having me and for the very kind introduction. My name’s Isabel Preeshagul. I am a Thoracic Medical Oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and it is a huge honor to be here with you today. 

Katherine Banwell:

Well, we’re so glad to have you with us. I’d like to start with a question pertaining to our series title, Insist. Why is it essential for patients to collaborate with their providers on care treatment decisions? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, collaborating is so important, right? I always tell my patients this is not a dictatorship, right? This is a collaborative effort where I’m here to guide you, but you are the captain of the ship. 

You are the one that needs to make all of the decisions, and I’m here to make sure that the ship goes in a smooth direction, so making sure we have open lines of communication that the patients and their caregivers feel comfortable talking to me and my team and also vice versa and that we trust each other. It’s so important because we are going for a marathon, right? We’re not going for a sprint. This is a long-term relationship, whether we’re treating for cure or we’re treating you with palliative intent and it’s treatable but not curable. We’re going to be following with each other for a long time.  

Katherine Banwell:

A lung cancer healthcare team, of course, consists of a number of different providers. Would you tell us about the various members on a team? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Sure. So, there is – there are the people that do the scheduling, that make sure that the CAT scan is scheduled, that the MRI is done, your chemo gets scheduled, all of that. The schedulers are super important and an integral part of our team.  

And then we also have our office coordinators  that answers the phone calls and passes along the messages and assists with scheduling and sort of sets expectations and is the face of the practice. Then you have an office practice nurse or an oncology practice nurse who is the doctor’s right hand, making sure that the patients get proper chemotherapy teaches, making sure that they understand about possible side effects, risks versus benefits, making sure medications are up to date, assessing symptoms.  

They are sort of the front line when it comes to any patient call they’re triaging, and they’re escalating or deescalating. That would be the office practice nurse. And then you have an advanced care practitioner, an APP. You either have a nurse practitioner or a PA that’s working with you that’s sometimes seeing patients independently, sometimes putting chemotherapy orders, you know, really serving as almost as another doctor. 

If for some reason there is something that the doctor’s not available to do, the doctor needs in a pinch, or my patients that are almost at long-term follow-up that are doing great that are just kind of coasting, I will share with my NP and make sure that they know her just as well as they know me. And sometimes there’s a fellow or there’s a resident or there’s a med student that’s part of the team as well because see one, do one, teach one. It’s really important to teach those that are coming after you and serve as mentors and really include them in part of the team and part of the decision-making. And then you have the doctor that just kind of oversees everything.  

Katherine Banwell:

Of course. How would you define treatment goals for people with lung cancer? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, the goal of treatment, I think, is really contingent upon someone’s stage, but it’s also contingent upon what’s important to the patient, right? So, we have patients that are stage I all the way to stage IIIC that we treat with intention to cure.

And patients that have stage IV disease, it’s treatable but not curable. So, I am very transparent with that as long as I have the information to have that discussion. With that being said, there are some patients with stage IIIdisease or stage I disease that don’t really want treatment and want to focus on quality of life. And that’s okay too. And in which case, you know, at some point, their cancer will likely progress. How quickly or when that will happen, we don’t know. Could they pass from something else? It’s possible. But you really need to talk about what’s important to the patient, because it’s not always cut and dry.  

Katherine Banwell:

As you mentioned, Dr. Preeshagul, there are several different support members on a team. What would you say to patients or even care partners who can sometimes feel like they’re bothering their healthcare team with their questions and comments? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we do get that concern a lot. And I always say, “I’m here for you 24/7. And, if it’s not me, it’s someone that’s just as qualified to answer your questions no matter what.” 

“And I would rather get a phone call at 3:00 a.m. than get a phone call at 9:00 a.m., and you need to go to the hospital right now or God forbid something happened. I get a phone call from someone in the ICU that you went overnight and terrible things happened. So, I want the phone calls to come through to keep you out of the hospital and keep you from going south. So, call me.” And I never try to – I don’t try to outline contingency plans or criteria of what would warrant a call, because then you end up getting in trouble.  

I always just tell my patient, “Think about how you’re feeling now in front of me. If you’re feeling any different than how you feel at this very moment, call me.”  

Katherine Banwell:

Good advice. I’d like to turn to the clinical side of non-small cell lung cancer. What tests help you identify the type and stage of lung cancer?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Obviously, you need a CAT scan. You need a CAT scan of the chest, abdomen, pelvis, and you need an MRI brain and a PET scan.  

Those are really the gold standards for determining clinical staging. In regards to pathologic staging, it’s really important to have tissue samplings. So, you biopsy a site of disease that’s concerning to you. If it looks like there’s only disease in the chest, you want to biopsy the site where there’s the tumor, and then you talk with your thoracic surgery or pulmonary team to determine the best way to sample the mediastinum for full staging.  

Katherine Banwell:

Why is an accurate diagnosis so important?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, an accurate diagnosis is so important because lung cancer is by no means black and white anymore. There are so many histologic subtypes that we are learning about. There are so many different molecular drivers that we are learning about. So, making sure you have the right diagnosis, full and next-generation sequencing testing, all of the imaging that you need could really make or break your treatment plan.  

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Preeshagul, let’s talk about biomarker testing. How is biomarker testing for lung cancer different from hereditary genetic testing?

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we do do hereditary genetic testing for lung cancer patients as well. So, I think let’s backtrack a little bit. When you’re doing on a patient, there’s germline mutations and there’s somatic mutations. And germline mutations are mutations that you might get from Mom and Dad that they got from their parents and so on and so forth that you could give to your children or your brother and sister or whatever. So, that’s germline testing that could be passed along.  

That would be like BRCA or any other APC gene, but we are learning more and more that there are mutations in lung cancer that do have a hereditary aspect to them. So, we are learning now that while we do somatic testing, which is to find a mutation that just spontaneously happened in your tumor all on its own, it’s really important to pair that with germline testing to make sure that there isn’t some kind of heritable mutation that’s also driving this lung cancer.  

Katherine Banwell:

You mentioned hereditary genetic testing. Should family members of people with lung cancer undergo genetic testing then just to be reassured? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, if there is a germline mutation, then they should – the family members should be referred to a geneticist to have that discussion.   

Katherine Banwell:

What are common lung cancer biomarkers? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we have nine biomarkers within approval right now, but there are so many. There’s more than I could even talk about today. But some of the more common ones are EGFR, ALK, ROS1, MET exon 14. You have KRAS, KRAS-G12C, which is a newer one. We have NTRK. We have RET. The list goes on, HER2. I could talk for – there’s not enough time on this Zoom video to talk about all of the mutations. But there are nine mutations with approvals as of now to date, this very moment. That could change tomorrow.  

Katherine Banwell:

Of course, it could. How do biomarkers in lung cancer affect treatment options for lung cancer patients? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, it used to only be in stage IV, but now we are learning that biomarker testing is really important from the get-go because we have induction or neoadjuvant protocols that are looking at giving targeted therapy before patients go to surgery. 

We know that there’s FDA approval for patients to get targeted therapy after surgery, and there’s a survival advantage there. So, make sure that you have next-generation sequencing testing regardless of your stage.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. That’s good advice. So, we’ve heard how testing and a patient’s individual disease can lead to more targeted options. And you just mentioned targeted therapies. How do they work? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, there’s many different targeted therapies that we have. Some of given as an infusion. For HER2, for example, we have TDXD, and we have T-DM1. TDXD is the only drug that’s FDA-approved in this setting. There are clinical trials looking at T-DM1. For EGFR Exon 20, we have another infusional drug called amivantamab (Rybrevant). For EGFR Exon 19 and Exon 21, we have a pill called osimertinib (Tagrisso). For KRAS, there’s a pill. For most of the driver alterations, it’s a pill, but some of them it does require infusional therapy. 

But these are therapies that are targeted at the cells that harbor that mutation.  

Katherine Banwell:

Let’s turn to immunotherapy. What is it, and how does it work? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, immunotherapy is basically teaching your body to recognize cancer as foreign. So, when you have – I always kind of use this hand model. So, basically, a normal cell has, let’s say, three prongs. And then sometimes what happens is cancer will grow a marker called PD-L1 that makes it hide from the immune system. So, the body thinks that this is a normal cell. So, what immunotherapy does is it comes up and it sort of puts a cap on that PD-L1 so that the cell looks foreign again and the body can attack that cell and get rid of it. So, it’s almost like ramping up your immune system to recognize that marker and get rid of that cell. 

Katherine Banwell:

What is the regimen for immunotherapy, and how often is treatment administered? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, immunotherapy is approved in the neoadjuvant setting, which means before chemotherapy. It’s approved after chemotherapy, and it’s approved in the stage IV setting. There are many different regimens and many different dosings and many different drugs. But it’s typically given in your veins, either once every three weeks or once every four weeks for a certain amount of time. If it’s given in a curative setting and it’s given indefinitely or until there’s disease progression or intolerance in the stage IV setting.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. Let’s touch upon the side effects of these types of treatment. You’ve mentioned that there are so many, but what are some of the major side effects, and how are they managed? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Side effects of immunotherapy can include pneumonitis, which is inflammation of the lungs, any kind of endocrinopathy like issues with your thyroid, issues with your pancreas like diabetes.  

It can cause colitis, which is diarrhea, inflammation of the colon, hepatitis, inflammation of the liver. It can cause cerebritis, inflammation of the brain. It can cause arthritis or arthralgias, inflammation of the bones. And it can also cause rash and fatigue. 

Typically, if it’s the thyroid, it’s managed with thyroid replacement hormone or a drug that would calm down the thyroid if it’s overactive. Pneumonitis is steroids. Hepatitis is sometimes treated with steroids. Colitis, steroids typically. Steroids usually come somewhere in there, usually not with the endocrinopathies, but the other itis’s, it’s typically – we start with steroids and go up from there. And the goal is to really recognize these toxicities before they become a problem and just at the glimmer of them just starting.  

Katherine Banwell:

So, would you consider these treatments to be personalized medicine then? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, it’s personalized in the sense that if someone has a high PD-L1 expression, there may be some data to demonstrate that they may benefit from immunotherapy or have a response. If someone can’t tolerate chemotherapy or is not interested in chemotherapy or has other reasons that may preclude them from getting it, it might be reasonable. So, in that sense, it is considered personalized.  

Katherine Banwell:

How would you define personalized medicine? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

To me, personalized medicine takes into account the biologic makeup of a patient’s disease like if they have a mutation and what their PD-L1 status is, what the histologic makeup of it. What’s their stage? And then, on the other hand, what’s important to that patient? If they’re a tailor, you want to make sure you’re not giving them a medication that’s going to cause neuropathy, so they can’t use their hands.  

If they enjoy playing the harp or the piano, same thing. If their goal is to continue to run marathons, you may want to avoid something that’s going to cause inflammation of the lungs and risk them for pneumonitis. Tailoring to make sure that the treatment is part of their life but does not become their life. 

Katherine Banwell:

If the test results don’t reveal one of the biomarkers you’ve been talking about, what other treatments are available?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, if I don’t have an FDA approval, then sometimes we look to see if there is a clinical trial in our early phase drug development program, and we talk about a clinical trial. If there’s no clinical trial and I don’t have an FDA approval, then we have to talk about what options are considered standard of care and how to make that work into the patient’s lifestyle.  

Katherine Banwell:

What about surgery? When is it used?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Surgery is typically used in the curative setting with early-stage disease. We’re really trying to give patients some kind of chemotherapy or some kind of treatment before they go to surgery. It’s shown to improve outcomes. It just gives us a en vivo view of how the tumor will respond to the treatment. So, we typically use surgery in the curative setting. And, at times, it’s appropriate to use surgery for a metastasectomy when you have one little site that’s growing. Sometimes after a tumor board discussion, it might be reasonable to resect that area.  

Katherine Banwell:

Is radiation still used? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Same thing. It can be used in the curative setting, typically for patients with stage IIIB or stage IIIC disease and combined with chemotherapy patients that are not considered surgical candidates, or it’s used in the palliative setting when patients have painful metastases. 

Katherine Banwell:

Would you define the B and C? You’ve mentioned that a couple of times.  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah. 

Katherine Banwell:

We’re used to hearing Stage 1, 2, 3, 4. But what’s a stage IIIB and a stage IIIC? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah. Sure. Sure. So, it does get a little bit into the weeds here about the size of the tumor and the amount of lymph nodes and location of the lymph nodes. But basically, stage IIIA is considered resectable. That means – that could be the size of the tumor with no lymph nodes, or it could be a smaller tumor with a lymph node on the same side as the disease. Stage IIIB would be a lymph node right underneath the windpipe at the station 7. And stage IIIB also includes lymph nodes that have crossed over to the contralateral side. And stage IIIC would be lymph nodes that are maybe up at the contralateral supraclavicular space. 

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. Do treatment options change if the lung cancer returns? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yes, they do change depending on if this is the same tumor type that’s come back. It’s typically a different treatment algorithm, yeah.   

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. And should biomarker testing be done again if a relapse occurs? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

100 percent. Because it guides everything about a patient’s treatment. It’s super important.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. What are you excited about right now in lung cancer research? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I am excited and overwhelmed by the fact that we have so many approvals and so much exciting data that was just presented at ASCO and World Lung and ESMO that it’s next to impossible to keep up. And I’m happy that we have that problem, and I’m happy that the patients have – there’s a spotlight on lung cancer when we were in the shadows. And now, I think we have the spotlight. 

And all of these approvals, you know, with it being Lung Cancer Awareness Month as well, I think is just so important. Just to make sure that we get the knowledge of these new approvals out there though, that is another struggle. 

Katherine Banwell:

Well, are there any current clinical trials that look promising to you? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah, I think there are many clinical trials. In the induction setting, there was some data that was just presented on ALINA looking at adjuvant alectinib (Alecensa). We just had a – we have approval for adjuvant osimertinib (Tagrisso) and the ADAURA trial.  

But we are learning more and more that as these targeted therapies have approval in stage IV, we’re trialing them in stage III, and then we’re going to trial them in earlier stages and earlier settings. So, this has been the pattern of how drugs get approved. So, yes, there’s lots of exciting data coming through. 

Katherine Banwell:

That’s excellent. Can you talk about antibody drug conjugates and where they fit into lung cancer care? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah. That’s a great question. I don’t think anyone knows the answer as to where they fit in just yet. 

We have probably over 300 antibody drug conjugates that are in development right now. And one of the more common ones that we use is trastuzumab deruxtecan (Enhertu), or TDXD, which is used in patients that harbor HER2 alterations in the stage IV lung cancer setting. It is basically almost like a Trojan horse. So, you have this antibody.  

It’s typically IgG1, immunoglobulin. And then you have a linker, and then at the end of that linker is the warhead or the chemotherapy agent. So, the antibody comes in towards the cancer cell looking very innocent. It binds to the cancer cell. And, once it binds, then everyone inside the Trojan horse or this warhead rush into the cell and get to do its damage. So, it’s a totally different mechanism. We’re trying to outsmart some of the bypass mechanisms that cancer cells develop. And this may be the new wave, but stay tuned, more to come.  

Katherine Banwell:

Right. So, it’s promising.  How can patients find out more about current clinical trials? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, you can always ask your healthcare practitioner if there are any clinical trials at the institution that you’re at, but clinicaltrials.gov has all the clinical trials that are available nationally and internationally.  

You just type in your disease type. You can type in a couple keywords, EGFR maybe or ROS1 or stage IV, something along those lines, and then it should populate a list of clinical trials and what institutions have them open, if they’re still accruing or if they’re not, and a contact on that trial.  

Katherine Banwell:

If a patient is interested in a clinical trial, what kinds of questions should they be asking their healthcare about the trial? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, the first question to ask is, “Do we have any clinical trials that are appropriate for me?” If the answer is yes, “Are they appropriate for me now, or are they appropriate for me if what I’m on right now is not working?” 

So, trying to figure out where that will be, and if they are appropriate for you now, how can I get evaluated, and how can we get things underway? 

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah. What would you say to patients who are interested in participating in a clinical trial, but they’re nervous about it?

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I think one thing that I love about being on a clinical trial is that there are more eyes are on you, because we are looking to get something approved, and we are just watching every single little granular detail. In a way, it’s almost like you’re being more micromanaged than if you were on standard of care because of just how many stops and checks there are, how many eyes are looking at your labs after the doctor and the nurse and the nurse practitioner, and the fellow take a look at everything. It’s 10 other people. So, it’s almost like it’s extra safe because of all of that. It’s exciting because you are hopefully getting tomorrow’s treatment today, right? 

You’re trailblazing the way for other people after you. So, I think it’s exciting, but, of course, it’s nerve-wracking. It’s something new. You don’t know if it’s going to work. But I have to believe that the way that clinical trials are designed now and the clinical trials that we choose to open here, we really hope are going to be pushing the space forward. 

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah. I’d like to get to a few questions that we received from audience members prior to the program. How do you help a family member that is an overwhelmed caregiver but refuses help? Any tips on how to provide support to this person?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I mean, I think we see caregiver burnout thousands of times a day, unfortunately, and the first thing is knowing how to recognize it. And the second most important thing is taking the time away from the visit with the patient to address the burnt-out caregiver, because there is not enough time in any visit to ever – there’s never enough time in my mind to spend with a patient.  

I’m always pulled in a thousand different directions. And I think we all feel that. But taking the appropriate time to sit down and to say, “Hey. Listen. I recognize that you’re burnt out. I can see it. Who is in your corner helping you?” And just directing focus away from the patient just for a moment and to really focus on that caregiver and to rely on the social work team and the case manager and the support groups that your institution may have and to make sure that they know about those resources. 

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah. Here’s another question we received. “Can you share more information regarding treatments available for stage IV lung cancer and their side effects?” 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

It depends on if this is non-small cell or small cell. It depends on if you have a driver alteration or not. So, I think that is a little bit challenging to talk about in just one session. But basically, you’re probably looking at some kind of targeted therapy if you have a mutation versus standard of care if you don’t have a targeted mutation versus a clinical trial. And I think those are kind of like the big baskets.  

Katherine Banwell:

When is a second opinion necessary? Dr. Isabel Preeshagul: A second opinion is necessary anytime you want a second opinion.  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

There is no right or wrong time, any time. You’re just not jiving with your oncologist after the first day you met them, second opinion. You’re at the end of the line and you really want toknow more, second opinion. You’ve met two other doctors. You’re not jiving, third opinion. It’s always appropriate anytime you want. 

Katherine Banwell:

So, the patient shouldn’t feel obligated to stay with that one provider? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Never. Never, never, never, never, never. No. Please don’t feel that way. There are no hard feelings. And, if there are, that’s not the right oncologist for you. It needs to feel like a perfect friendship. And, if it’s not that, it’s not the right thing.    

Katherine Banwell:

Before we close, Dr. Preeshagul, I’d like to get your final thoughts. What would you say to the audience about the future of lung cancer care and treatment? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I do think that the future is bright because, as I mentioned, there is now this light that is shining in the lung cancer space. And things are getting approved. and discoveries are getting made faster than we can even keep up, which is exciting and overwhelming and daunting. But I am happy that, finally, this space is taking off, so I feel optimistic.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. All right. Well, I wanna thank you so much for taking the time to join us today, Dr. Preeshagul.  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Thank you so much for having me. These were wonderful questions, and I look forward to many more discussions with you. Thank you.  

Katherine Banwell:

And thank you to all of our partners. To learn more about lung cancer and to access tools to help you become a proactive patient, visit powerfulpatients.org. I’m Katherine Banwell. Thanks for being with us today.   

What Essential Testing Reveals About Your Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

What Essential Testing Reveals About Your Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What do lung cancer test results reveal to your healthcare team about your disease? Dr. Isabel Preeshagul provides an overview of essential testing for lung cancer and explains the difference between germline and somatic mutations.

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul is a thoracic medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Preeshagul.

See More From INSIST! Lung Cancer

Related Resources:

Insist on Better Lung Cancer Care | Tips for Essential Communication

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment Options | Personalizing Therapy

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment Options | Personalizing Therapy

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment | Clinical Trials and Research Updates

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment | Clinical Trials and Research Updates


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

I’d like to turn to the clinical side of non-small cell lung cancer. What tests help you identify the type and stage of lung cancer? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Obviously, you need a CAT scan. You need a CAT scan of the chest, abdomen, pelvis, and you need an MRI brain and a PET scan.  

Those are really the gold standards for determining clinical staging. In regards to pathologic staging, it’s really important to have tissue samplings. So, you biopsy a site of disease that’s concerning to you. If it looks like there’s only disease in the chest, you want to biopsy the site where there’s the tumor, and then you talk with your thoracic surgery or pulmonary team to determine the best way to sample the mediastinum for full staging.  

Katherine Banwell:

Why is an accurate diagnosis so important? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, an accurate diagnosis is so important, because lung cancer is by no means black and white anymore. There are so many histologic subtypes that we are learning about. There are so many different molecular drivers that we are learning about. So, making sure you have the right diagnosis, full and next-generation sequencing testing, all of the imaging that you need could really make or break your treatment plan.  

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Preeshagul, let’s talk about biomarker testing. How is biomarker testing for lung cancer different from hereditary genetic testing? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we do do hereditary genetic testing for lung cancer patients as well. So, I think let’s backtrack a little bit. When you’re doing on a patient, there are germline mutations and there are somatic mutations. And germline mutations are mutations that you might get from Mom and Dad that they got from their parents and so on and so forth that you could give to your children or your brother and sister or whatever. So, that’s germline testing that could be passed along.  

That would be like BRCA or any other APC gene, but we are learning more and more that there are mutations in lung cancer that do have a hereditary aspect to them. So, we are learning now that while we do somatic testing, which is to find a mutation that just spontaneously happened in your tumor all on its own, it’s really important to pair that with germline testing to make sure that there isn’t some kind of heritable mutation that’s also driving this lung cancer.  

Katherine Banwell:

You mentioned hereditary genetic testing. Should family members of people with lung cancer undergo genetic testing then just to be reassured? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, if there is a germline mutation, then they should – the family members should be referred to a geneticist to have that discussion.  

Katherine Banwell:

What are common lung cancer biomarkers? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we have nine biomarkers within approval right now, but there are so many. There’s more than I could even talk about today. But some of the more common ones are EGFR, ALK, ROS1, MET exon 14. You have KRAS, KRAS-G12C, which is a newer one. We have NTRK. We have RET. The list goes on, HER2. I could talk for – there’s not enough time on this Zoom video to talk about all of the mutations. But there are nine mutations with approvals as of now to date, this very moment. That could change tomorrow.   

What Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment is Right for You?

What Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment is Right for You? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What’s the best approach for YOUR lung cancer? Dr. Isabel Preeshagul discusses the importance of engaging in your lung cancer care decisions, shares advice for working with your team to determine a treatment approach, and reviews factors that affect therapy options. Dr. Preeshagul also provides an update on the latest research and clinical trials.

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul is a thoracic medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Preeshagul.

Download Program Resource Guide

See More From INSIST! Lung Cancer

Related Resources:

An Expert Explains Predictive Biomarker Testing for Lung Cancer

An Expert Explains Predictive Biomarker Testing for Lung Cancer

Personalized Lung Cancer Treatment | Key Factors to Consider

Personalized Lung Cancer Treatment | Key Factors to Consider 

Understanding Currently Available Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatments

Understanding Currently Available Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatments 


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Hello and welcome. I’m Katherine Banwell, your host for today’s program. Today, we’ll discuss the latest advances in non-small cell lung cancer care as part of our Insist series, which encourages patients to play an active role and insist on better care. Before we get into the discussion, please remember that this program is not a substitute for seeking medical advice. Please refer to your healthcare team about what might be best for you. Well, let’s meet our guest today. Joining me is Dr. Isabel Preeshagul. Dr. Preeshagul, it’s so good to have you with us. Thank you. Would you introduce yourself? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yes. Thank you so much for having me and for the very kind introduction. My name’s Isabel Preeshagul. I am a Thoracic Medical Oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and it is a huge honor to be here with you today. 

Katherine Banwell:

Well, we’re so glad to have you with us. I’d like to start with a question pertaining to our series title, Insist. Why is it essential for patients to collaborate with their providers on care treatment decisions? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, collaborating is so important, right? I always tell my patients this is not a dictatorship, right? This is a collaborative effort where I’m here to guide you, but you are the captain of the ship. 

You are the one that needs to make all of the decisions, and I’m here to make sure that the ship goes in a smooth direction, so making sure we have open lines of communication that the patients and their caregivers feel comfortable talking to me and my team and also vice versa and that we trust each other. It’s so important because we are going for a marathon, right? We’re not going for a sprint. This is a long-term relationship, whether we’re treating for cure or we’re treating you with palliative intent and it’s treatable but not curable. We’re going to be following with each other for a long time.  

Katherine Banwell:

A lung cancer healthcare team, of course, consists of a number of different providers. Would you tell us about the various members on a team? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Sure. So, there is – there are the people that do the scheduling, that make sure that the CAT scan is scheduled, that the MRI is done, your chemo gets scheduled, all of that. The schedulers are super important and an integral part of our team.  

And then we also have our office coordinators  that answers the phone calls and passes along the messages and assists with scheduling and sort of sets expectations and is the face of the practice. Then you have an office practice nurse or an oncology practice nurse who is the doctor’s right hand, making sure that the patients get proper chemotherapy teaches, making sure that they understand about possible side effects, risks versus benefits, making sure medications are up to date, assessing symptoms.  

They are sort of the front line when it comes to any patient call they’re triaging, and they’re escalating or deescalating. That would be the office practice nurse. And then you have an advanced care practitioner, an APP. You either have a nurse practitioner or a PA that’s working with you that’s sometimes seeing patients independently, sometimes putting chemotherapy orders, you know, really serving as almost as another doctor. 

If for some reason there is something that the doctor’s not available to do, the doctor needs in a pinch, or my patients that are almost at long-term follow-up that are doing great that are just kind of coasting, I will share with my NP and make sure that they know her just as well as they know me. And sometimes there’s a fellow or there’s a resident or there’s a med student that’s part of the team as well because see one, do one, teach one. It’s really important to teach those that are coming after you and serve as mentors and really include them in part of the team and part of the decision-making. And then you have the doctor that just kind of oversees everything.  

Katherine Banwell:

Of course. How would you define treatment goals for people with lung cancer? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, the goal of treatment, I think, is really contingent upon someone’s stage, but it’s also contingent upon what’s important to the patient, right? So, we have patients that are stage I all the way to stage IIIC that we treat with intention to cure.

And patients that have stage IV disease, it’s treatable but not curable. So, I am very transparent with that as long as I have the information to have that discussion. With that being said, there are some patients with stage IIIdisease or stage I disease that don’t really want treatment and want to focus on quality of life. And that’s okay too. And in which case, you know, at some point, their cancer will likely progress. How quickly or when that will happen, we don’t know. Could they pass from something else? It’s possible. But you really need to talk about what’s important to the patient, because it’s not always cut and dry.  

Katherine Banwell:

As you mentioned, Dr. Preeshagul, there are several different support members on a team. What would you say to patients or even care partners who can sometimes feel like they’re bothering their healthcare team with their questions and comments? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we do get that concern a lot. And I always say, “I’m here for you 24/7. And, if it’s not me, it’s someone that’s just as qualified to answer your questions no matter what.” 

“And I would rather get a phone call at 3:00 a.m. than get a phone call at 9:00 a.m., and you need to go to the hospital right now or God forbid something happened. I get a phone call from someone in the ICU that you went overnight and terrible things happened. So, I want the phone calls to come through to keep you out of the hospital and keep you from going south. So, call me.” And I never try to – I don’t try to outline contingency plans or criteria of what would warrant a call, because then you end up getting in trouble.  

I always just tell my patient, “Think about how you’re feeling now in front of me. If you’re feeling any different than how you feel at this very moment, call me.”  

Katherine Banwell:

Good advice. I’d like to turn to the clinical side of non-small cell lung cancer. What tests help you identify the type and stage of lung cancer?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Obviously, you need a CAT scan. You need a CAT scan of the chest, abdomen, pelvis, and you need an MRI brain and a PET scan.  

Those are really the gold standards for determining clinical staging. In regards to pathologic staging, it’s really important to have tissue samplings. So, you biopsy a site of disease that’s concerning to you. If it looks like there’s only disease in the chest, you want to biopsy the site where there’s the tumor, and then you talk with your thoracic surgery or pulmonary team to determine the best way to sample the mediastinum for full staging.  

Katherine Banwell:

Why is an accurate diagnosis so important?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, an accurate diagnosis is so important because lung cancer is by no means black and white anymore. There are so many histologic subtypes that we are learning about. There are so many different molecular drivers that we are learning about. So, making sure you have the right diagnosis, full and next-generation sequencing testing, all of the imaging that you need could really make or break your treatment plan.  

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Preeshagul, let’s talk about biomarker testing. How is biomarker testing for lung cancer different from hereditary genetic testing?

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we do do hereditary genetic testing for lung cancer patients as well. So, I think let’s backtrack a little bit. When you’re doing on a patient, there’s germline mutations and there’s somatic mutations. And germline mutations are mutations that you might get from Mom and Dad that they got from their parents and so on and so forth that you could give to your children or your brother and sister or whatever. So, that’s germline testing that could be passed along.  

That would be like BRCA or any other APC gene, but we are learning more and more that there are mutations in lung cancer that do have a hereditary aspect to them. So, we are learning now that while we do somatic testing, which is to find a mutation that just spontaneously happened in your tumor all on its own, it’s really important to pair that with germline testing to make sure that there isn’t some kind of heritable mutation that’s also driving this lung cancer.  

Katherine Banwell:

You mentioned hereditary genetic testing. Should family members of people with lung cancer undergo genetic testing then just to be reassured? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, if there is a germline mutation, then they should – the family members should be referred to a geneticist to have that discussion.   

Katherine Banwell:

What are common lung cancer biomarkers? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we have nine biomarkers within approval right now, but there are so many. There’s more than I could even talk about today. But some of the more common ones are EGFR, ALK, ROS1, MET exon 14. You have KRAS, KRAS-G12C, which is a newer one. We have NTRK. We have RET. The list goes on, HER2. I could talk for – there’s not enough time on this Zoom video to talk about all of the mutations. But there are nine mutations with approvals as of now to date, this very moment. That could change tomorrow.  

Katherine Banwell:

Of course, it could. How do biomarkers in lung cancer affect treatment options for lung cancer patients? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, it used to only be in stage IV, but now we are learning that biomarker testing is really important from the get-go because we have induction or neoadjuvant protocols that are looking at giving targeted therapy before patients go to surgery. 

We know that there’s FDA approval for patients to get targeted therapy after surgery, and there’s a survival advantage there. So, make sure that you have next-generation sequencing testing regardless of your stage.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. That’s good advice. So, we’ve heard how testing and a patient’s individual disease can lead to more targeted options. And you just mentioned targeted therapies. How do they work? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, there’s many different targeted therapies that we have. Some of given as an infusion. For HER2, for example, we have TDXD, and we have T-DM1. TDXD is the only drug that’s FDA-approved in this setting. There are clinical trials looking at T-DM1. For EGFR Exon 20, we have another infusional drug called amivantamab (Rybrevant). For EGFR Exon 19 and Exon 21, we have a pill called osimertinib (Tagrisso). For KRAS, there’s a pill. For most of the driver alterations, it’s a pill, but some of them it does require infusional therapy. 

But these are therapies that are targeted at the cells that harbor that mutation.  

Katherine Banwell:

Let’s turn to immunotherapy. What is it, and how does it work? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, immunotherapy is basically teaching your body to recognize cancer as foreign. So, when you have – I always kind of use this hand model. So, basically, a normal cell has, let’s say, three prongs. And then sometimes what happens is cancer will grow a marker called PD-L1 that makes it hide from the immune system. So, the body thinks that this is a normal cell. So, what immunotherapy does is it comes up and it sort of puts a cap on that PD-L1 so that the cell looks foreign again and the body can attack that cell and get rid of it. So, it’s almost like ramping up your immune system to recognize that marker and get rid of that cell. 

Katherine Banwell:

What is the regimen for immunotherapy, and how often is treatment administered? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, immunotherapy is approved in the neoadjuvant setting, which means before chemotherapy. It’s approved after chemotherapy, and it’s approved in the stage IV setting. There are many different regimens and many different dosings and many different drugs. But it’s typically given in your veins, either once every three weeks or once every four weeks for a certain amount of time. If it’s given in a curative setting and it’s given indefinitely or until there’s disease progression or intolerance in the stage IV setting.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. Let’s touch upon the side effects of these types of treatment. You’ve mentioned that there are so many, but what are some of the major side effects, and how are they managed? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Side effects of immunotherapy can include pneumonitis, which is inflammation of the lungs, any kind of endocrinopathy like issues with your thyroid, issues with your pancreas like diabetes.  

It can cause colitis, which is diarrhea, inflammation of the colon, hepatitis, inflammation of the liver. It can cause cerebritis, inflammation of the brain. It can cause arthritis or arthralgias, inflammation of the bones. And it can also cause rash and fatigue. 

Typically, if it’s the thyroid, it’s managed with thyroid replacement hormone or a drug that would calm down the thyroid if it’s overactive. Pneumonitis is steroids. Hepatitis is sometimes treated with steroids. Colitis, steroids typically. Steroids usually come somewhere in there, usually not with the endocrinopathies, but the other itis’s, it’s typically – we start with steroids and go up from there. And the goal is to really recognize these toxicities before they become a problem and just at the glimmer of them just starting.  

Katherine Banwell:

So, would you consider these treatments to be personalized medicine then? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, it’s personalized in the sense that if someone has a high PD-L1 expression, there may be some data to demonstrate that they may benefit from immunotherapy or have a response. If someone can’t tolerate chemotherapy or is not interested in chemotherapy or has other reasons that may preclude them from getting it, it might be reasonable. So, in that sense, it is considered personalized.  

Katherine Banwell:

How would you define personalized medicine? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

To me, personalized medicine takes into account the biologic makeup of a patient’s disease like if they have a mutation and what their PD-L1 status is, what the histologic makeup of it. What’s their stage? And then, on the other hand, what’s important to that patient? If they’re a tailor, you want to make sure you’re not giving them a medication that’s going to cause neuropathy, so they can’t use their hands.  

If they enjoy playing the harp or the piano, same thing. If their goal is to continue to run marathons, you may want to avoid something that’s going to cause inflammation of the lungs and risk them for pneumonitis. Tailoring to make sure that the treatment is part of their life but does not become their life. 

Katherine Banwell:

If the test results don’t reveal one of the biomarkers you’ve been talking about, what other treatments are available?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, if I don’t have an FDA approval, then sometimes we look to see if there is a clinical trial in our early phase drug development program, and we talk about a clinical trial. If there’s no clinical trial and I don’t have an FDA approval, then we have to talk about what options are considered standard of care and how to make that work into the patient’s lifestyle.  

Katherine Banwell:

What about surgery? When is it used?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Surgery is typically used in the curative setting with early-stage disease. We’re really trying to give patients some kind of chemotherapy or some kind of treatment before they go to surgery. It’s shown to improve outcomes. It just gives us a en vivo view of how the tumor will respond to the treatment. So, we typically use surgery in the curative setting. And, at times, it’s appropriate to use surgery for a metastasectomy when you have one little site that’s growing. Sometimes after a tumor board discussion, it might be reasonable to resect that area.  

Katherine Banwell:

Is radiation still used? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Same thing. It can be used in the curative setting, typically for patients with stage IIIB or stage IIIC disease and combined with chemotherapy patients that are not considered surgical candidates, or it’s used in the palliative setting when patients have painful metastases. 

Katherine Banwell:

Would you define the B and C? You’ve mentioned that a couple of times.  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah. 

Katherine Banwell:

We’re used to hearing Stage 1, 2, 3, 4. But what’s a stage IIIB and a stage IIIC? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah. Sure. Sure. So, it does get a little bit into the weeds here about the size of the tumor and the amount of lymph nodes and location of the lymph nodes. But basically, stage IIIA is considered resectable. That means – that could be the size of the tumor with no lymph nodes, or it could be a smaller tumor with a lymph node on the same side as the disease. Stage IIIB would be a lymph node right underneath the windpipe at the station 7. And stage IIIB also includes lymph nodes that have crossed over to the contralateral side. And stage IIIC would be lymph nodes that are maybe up at the contralateral supraclavicular space. 

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. Do treatment options change if the lung cancer returns? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yes, they do change depending on if this is the same tumor type that’s come back. It’s typically a different treatment algorithm, yeah.   

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. And should biomarker testing be done again if a relapse occurs? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

100 percent. Because it guides everything about a patient’s treatment. It’s super important.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. What are you excited about right now in lung cancer research? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I am excited and overwhelmed by the fact that we have so many approvals and so much exciting data that was just presented at ASCO and World Lung and ESMO that it’s next to impossible to keep up. And I’m happy that we have that problem, and I’m happy that the patients have – there’s a spotlight on lung cancer when we were in the shadows. And now, I think we have the spotlight. 

And all of these approvals, you know, with it being Lung Cancer Awareness Month as well, I think is just so important. Just to make sure that we get the knowledge of these new approvals out there though, that is another struggle. 

Katherine Banwell:

Well, are there any current clinical trials that look promising to you? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah, I think there are many clinical trials. In the induction setting, there was some data that was just presented on ALINA looking at adjuvant alectinib (Alecensa). We just had a – we have approval for adjuvant osimertinib (Tagrisso) and the ADAURA trial.  

But we are learning more and more that as these targeted therapies have approval in stage IV, we’re trialing them in stage III, and then we’re going to trial them in earlier stages and earlier settings. So, this has been the pattern of how drugs get approved. So, yes, there’s lots of exciting data coming through. 

Katherine Banwell:

That’s excellent. Can you talk about antibody drug conjugates and where they fit into lung cancer care? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah. That’s a great question. I don’t think anyone knows the answer as to where they fit in just yet. 

We have probably over 300 antibody drug conjugates that are in development right now. And one of the more common ones that we use is trastuzumab deruxtecan (Enhertu), or TDXD, which is used in patients that harbor HER2 alterations in the stage IV lung cancer setting. It is basically almost like a Trojan horse. So, you have this antibody.  

It’s typically IgG1, immunoglobulin. And then you have a linker, and then at the end of that linker is the warhead or the chemotherapy agent. So, the antibody comes in towards the cancer cell looking very innocent. It binds to the cancer cell. And, once it binds, then everyone inside the Trojan horse or this warhead rush into the cell and get to do its damage. So, it’s a totally different mechanism. We’re trying to outsmart some of the bypass mechanisms that cancer cells develop. And this may be the new wave, but stay tuned, more to come.  

Katherine Banwell:

Right. So, it’s promising.  How can patients find out more about current clinical trials? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, you can always ask your healthcare practitioner if there are any clinical trials at the institution that you’re at, but clinicaltrials.gov has all the clinical trials that are available nationally and internationally.  

You just type in your disease type. You can type in a couple keywords, EGFR maybe or ROS1 or stage IV, something along those lines, and then it should populate a list of clinical trials and what institutions have them open, if they’re still accruing or if they’re not, and a contact on that trial.  

Katherine Banwell:

If a patient is interested in a clinical trial, what kinds of questions should they be asking their healthcare about the trial? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, the first question to ask is, “Do we have any clinical trials that are appropriate for me?” If the answer is yes, “Are they appropriate for me now, or are they appropriate for me if what I’m on right now is not working?” 

So, trying to figure out where that will be, and if they are appropriate for you now, how can I get evaluated, and how can we get things underway? 

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah. What would you say to patients who are interested in participating in a clinical trial, but they’re nervous about it?

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I think one thing that I love about being on a clinical trial is that there are more eyes are on you, because we are looking to get something approved, and we are just watching every single little granular detail. In a way, it’s almost like you’re being more micromanaged than if you were on standard of care because of just how many stops and checks there are, how many eyes are looking at your labs after the doctor and the nurse and the nurse practitioner, and the fellow take a look at everything. It’s 10 other people. So, it’s almost like it’s extra safe because of all of that. It’s exciting because you are hopefully getting tomorrow’s treatment today, right? 

You’re trailblazing the way for other people after you. So, I think it’s exciting, but, of course, it’s nerve-wracking. It’s something new. You don’t know if it’s going to work. But I have to believe that the way that clinical trials are designed now and the clinical trials that we choose to open here, we really hope are going to be pushing the space forward. 

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah. I’d like to get to a few questions that we received from audience members prior to the program. How do you help a family member that is an overwhelmed caregiver but refuses help? Any tips on how to provide support to this person?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I mean, I think we see caregiver burnout thousands of times a day, unfortunately, and the first thing is knowing how to recognize it. And the second most important thing is taking the time away from the visit with the patient to address the burnt-out caregiver, because there is not enough time in any visit to ever – there’s never enough time in my mind to spend with a patient.  

I’m always pulled in a thousand different directions. And I think we all feel that. But taking the appropriate time to sit down and to say, “Hey. Listen. I recognize that you’re burnt out. I can see it. Who is in your corner helping you?” And just directing focus away from the patient just for a moment and to really focus on that caregiver and to rely on the social work team and the case manager and the support groups that your institution may have and to make sure that they know about those resources. 

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah. Here’s another question we received. “Can you share more information regarding treatments available for stage IV lung cancer and their side effects?” 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

It depends on if this is non-small cell or small cell. It depends on if you have a driver alteration or not. So, I think that is a little bit challenging to talk about in just one session. But basically, you’re probably looking at some kind of targeted therapy if you have a mutation versus standard of care if you don’t have a targeted mutation versus a clinical trial. And I think those are kind of like the big baskets.  

Katherine Banwell:

When is a second opinion necessary? Dr. Isabel Preeshagul: A second opinion is necessary anytime you want a second opinion.  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

There is no right or wrong time, any time. You’re just not jiving with your oncologist after the first day you met them, second opinion. You’re at the end of the line and you really want toknow more, second opinion. You’ve met two other doctors. You’re not jiving, third opinion. It’s always appropriate anytime you want. 

Katherine Banwell:

So, the patient shouldn’t feel obligated to stay with that one provider? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Never. Never, never, never, never, never. No. Please don’t feel that way. There are no hard feelings. And, if there are, that’s not the right oncologist for you. It needs to feel like a perfect friendship. And, if it’s not that, it’s not the right thing.    

Katherine Banwell:

Before we close, Dr. Preeshagul, I’d like to get your final thoughts. What would you say to the audience about the future of lung cancer care and treatment? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I do think that the future is bright because, as I mentioned, there is now this light that is shining in the lung cancer space. And things are getting approved. and discoveries are getting made faster than we can even keep up, which is exciting and overwhelming and daunting. But I am happy that, finally, this space is taking off, so I feel optimistic.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. All right. Well, I wanna thank you so much for taking the time to join us today, Dr. Preeshagul.  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Thank you so much for having me. These were wonderful questions, and I look forward to many more discussions with you. Thank you.  

Katherine Banwell:

And thank you to all of our partners. To learn more about lung cancer and to access tools to help you become a proactive patient, visit powerfulpatients.org. I’m Katherine Banwell. Thanks for being with us today.   

Personalized Lung Cancer Treatment | Key Factors to Consider

Personalized Lung Cancer Treatment | Key Factors to Consider from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How is lung cancer therapy personalized? Dr. Erin Schenk, a lung cancer specialist and researcher, reviews important factors and considerations that affect therapy choices, including lifestyle and patient preference.

Dr. Erin Schenk is a medical oncologist, lung cancer researcher, and assistant professor in the division of medical oncology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center. Learn more about Dr. Schenk.

See More From INSIST! Lung Cancer

Related Resources:

An Expert Explains Predictive Biomarker Testing for Lung Cancer

An Expert Explains Predictive Biomarker Testing for Lung Cancer

Advances in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing

Advances in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing

Lung Cancer Care Decisions | Advice for Self-Advocacy

Lung Cancer Care Decisions | Advice for Self-Advocacy


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Personalizing therapy involves taking into account a number of patient factors. What should be considered when deciding on a treatment regimen for a given patient?   

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Uh-huh, yes. That’s a great question and one that is really important in formulating a treatment plan. So, some patients because of their health status, for example, aren’t able to undergo surgery, and that happens. And so, occasionally sort of their health status maybe their lungs don’t work as well as they used to or the heart doesn’t pump as well as it used to. 

You know, those sorts of health concerns can help us tailor and personalize treatments to what would be the most – the safest but also the most effective approach. Occasionally patients have another long-term chronic disease where using immunotherapy might be more dangerous than helpful because they’re sometimes autoimmune diseases.  

Especially ones that affect the brain, so for example multiple sclerosis can be one of those or disease that affect the lungs, you know, interstitial lung diseases. Those would put a patient at great risk of receiving immunotherapy, but outside of the health status, it’s also important I think to talk about what your preferences are as a patient as well.  

Because sometimes we will come to you and say, “Here are these multiple different choices and what’s important to you or maybe what you’re worried about or what you’re concerned about are considerations that we want to hear about and understand so that we can talk you through the process and help make some of these decisions.” You know, for example, if you’re receiving chemotherapy plus radiation together for your cancer care that can be a huge time commitment.   

What I mean by that is when patients get radiation in certain circumstances, that can be once a day every day, Monday through Friday for six weeks at a time and sometimes patients have challenges with transportation. Or sometimes they have you know, challenges balancing a job or childcare or other things like that. So, these are all part of the – just part of bringing it all together and putting together a treatment plan that makes sense for what we understand about the lung cancer itself, but also what we understand about you as our patient. 

You know, how can we make changes or make suggestions that would best fit for you and your needs?  

Katherine Banwell:

When should patients consider a second opinion or even consulting a specialist? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

I think any time it’s appropriate. We – at our institution, we’re one of the main lung cancer centers that – you know, within several hundred miles, so we frequently see patients and sometimes it’s just to check in and say you know, the patient says, “Here’s what my team has started me on. You know, what do you think should be the next approach?” and we talk about that, but really anytime I think is appropriate for reaching out for another set of eyes to look at things. I would say perhaps some of those most critical times would be prior to treatment starts especially if – yeah, I would say prior to starting a treatment with that new diagnosis.  

That would be a really critical time because often again, sometimes once we start down a treatment path, we’re in some ways we’re committed, but if that maybe isn’t the optimal treatment path based on, you know, the tumor and the biomarkers and the patient preference starting on that less optimal treatment path could potentially hurt patients in the long run. So, I would say at – you know, potentially at diagnosis when a treatment course is recommended and then if there is a need to change treatments.  

So, for example, especially in the metastatic setting there are certain therapies widely available. People are very familiar with them, can start them no problem, but when those treatments stop being beneficial that might be a time to also meet with a specialist or go to a lung cancer center of excellence to get their opinions on what to do next.  

Understanding Currently Available Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatments

Understanding Currently Available Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatments from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What options are available to treat non-small cell lung cancer? Dr. Erin Schenk, a lung cancer specialist and researcher, defines personalized medicine for the audience and discusses lung cancer treatment options, including clinical trials.

Dr. Erin Schenk is a medical oncologist, lung cancer researcher, and assistant professor in the division of medical oncology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center. Learn more about Dr. Schenk.

See More From INSIST! Lung Cancer

Related Resources:

An Expert Explains Predictive Biomarker Testing for Lung Cancer

An Expert Explains Predictive Biomarker Testing for Lung Cancer

Advances in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing

Advances in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing

Personalized Lung Cancer Treatment | Key Factors to Consider

Personalized Lung Cancer Treatment | Key Factors to Consider


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

We’re hearing the term personalized medicine a lot these days. Would you define the term for our audience? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely, and I think the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer is one of the poster childs for children – for personalized medicine because based on the result of the biomarker testing that’s what drives my choice of therapy because the biomarkers help to tell me what is this cancer most likely to be vulnerable to and that in my mind that’s a wonderful application of the promise of personalized medicine.   

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. Let’s move on to treatment now, Dr. Schenk. Would you walk us through the current treatments being used to treat non-small cell lung cancer?  

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely, and there are a broad range of options, and thankfully we have so many choices in how to best help patients. And it’s often why visiting with a center that sees a lot of patients with lung cancer can be beneficial so that you have all of the parties at the table that need to be there as we’re making these treatment decisions. So, I would start thinking about patients with early-stage disease. Often surgery if tumors are small enough and there’s not you know, no lymph nodes are involved with the cancer and it’s not anywhere else.  

Sometimes surgery is all that patients might need in terms of their treatment. Those are for patients with smaller tumors and really early-stage disease. As we move forward in the stages, meaning going from stage one to stage two, so a little bit bigger of a tumor, lymph nodes might be involved.   

That’s when really the multi-disciplinary approach happens, and what I mean by that is for example, at my institution where people like me, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and surgeons all sit down together to talk about a patient, their scans, you know, what is their health status, what is their biomarker testing, to try to come together to form a treatment approach. And so, at our institution, you know, frequently in stage two to stage three tumors based on biomarker testing we either select upfront surgery followed by chemotherapy followed by sometimes targeted therapies or TKIs.   

Those are the medicines, the TKI, those are the medicines that are really dependent on the presence of biomarker testing. So, the biomarkers often tell us for example if there’s an EGFR mutation. If that’s present then I would use an EGFR TKI, for example. 

But if those biomarkers don’t show an alteration where I have TKI to use, then we frequently are giving patients chemotherapy plus immunotherapy before surgery. This approach is called a neoadjuvant chemoimmunotherapy approach, and it’s one of the newer changes to lung cancer care within the past year that I think really is going to have a positive impact on outcomes for patients with lung cancer.  

So, just again in broad strokes, and then as we move into stage three patients where we can’t resect the tumor, that’s where we give chemotherapy medicines plus radiation therapy. Oftentimes followed by immunotherapy and then when patients have disease that spread outside of the chest, outside of the lungs, the metastatic setting or stage IV, that’s when we think about the whole host of therapies available through medical oncology, systemic therapies is another way to call them.  

And there we think about immunotherapy-based treatments plus or minus chemotherapy or we think about targeted therapy-based approaches with those TKIs. And again, it’s all based on those molecular markers, those biomarkers. 

Katherine Banwell:

Do clinical trials play a role in lung cancer treatment? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Clinical trials are incredibly important for the treatment of lung cancer. These are the tests and the procedures that we do that have continuously advanced our ability to care for patients with lung cancer. You know, it was clinical trial data that helped us get alerted to doing chemotherapy and immunotherapy before surgery really can help patients do better. And similarly, clinical trials have helped us define when do we use TKIs or targeted therapies. 

So, I think that’s another great question to ask your team of, “Based on all of the information you know about me and my cancer are there clinical trials options that are available here where I’m at or ones that are really interesting or appealing elsewhere that might be worthwhile for me to consider?” So, clinical trials are a critical part of how we help patients do better.  

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Essential Testing | What You Should Know

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Essential Testing | What You Should Know from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What tests are needed for a lung cancer diagnosis, and how might the results affect treatment options? Dr. Erin Schenk reviews the most common tests for lung cancer, including biomarker testing, and how the results may be used to determine the most appropriate therapy for your particular disease.

Dr. Erin Schenk is a medical oncologist, lung cancer researcher, and assistant professor in the division of medical oncology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center.

See More From INSIST! Lung Cancer

Related Resources:

Understanding Currently Available Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatments

Advances in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing

Advances in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing

Personalized Lung Cancer Treatment | Key Factors to Consider

Personalized Lung Cancer Treatment | Key Factors to Consider


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

What are the various subtypes of lung cancer, and how are they identified?  

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely. So, there are a number of different subtypes of lung cancer that are important for us to identify, because it helps to stratify or helps to select the right treatment approaches for a patient. So, usually when someone is diagnosed with lung cancer there was a scan done at some point that noticed a mass or masses in the body. 

What happens next is a biopsy happens where a needle is used to sample the tissue, and that could be in the lung, that could be in lymph nodes or other parts of the body and that tissue that’s sampled is first sent to my colleagues in pathology.  

And they’re a group of doctors who look at tissues underneath the microscope and try to identify what those are. And based on that initial pathology analysis, we can identify usually pretty straightforward, what is the type of cancer that they see under the microscope.  

And so, in very general terms there are non-small cell lung cancers, there is a group called small cell lung cancers, and there’s also a group called neuroendocrine cancers as well. Oftentimes, times we’re able to differentiate these types of tumors, these types of lung cancers based on how different markers show up, and these are called stains. 

And these stains can differentiate non-small cell between adenocarcinoma versus squamous cell carcinoma. And then they can also help differentiate small cell lung cancer. And then, of course, they can also help to identify if this is a neuroendocrine tumor. 

Katherine Banwell:

Today we’re going to focus on non-small cell lung cancer. Are there specific tests that patients should ask their doctor for following a diagnosis? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely, and I think it’s sometimes helpful to understand what are all the pieces of information I need when I first meet a patient to make decisions about treatments? So, we just went over the histology or another word, the pathology, what does the cancer look like underneath – under the microscope? That can help and that’s one of the pieces, understanding what type of non-small cell lung cancer is present. 

Additional information that’s needed includes certain tests, and you might hear say like, molecular testing or sequencing.  

Those pieces of information can be really important for treatment selection. So, whether there’s a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma or squamous cell lung cancer, we always try to know the PD-L1 status. And that’s actually a surface marker that’s present on the outside of the cancer cells and is able to help us select immunotherapy treatments as appropriate.  

Oftentimes, patients with lung adenocarcinoma will get further sequencing of the tumor itself. And again, you might hear of this called molecular testing or next-generation sequencing, NGS. There are a lot of terms we use for it, but fundamentally, what we’re trying to do is understand the vulnerabilities of the cancer cells. 

And these vulnerabilities can be identified by these molecular tests. They often are able to recognize mutations or fusions or genetic changes within the cancer cells that are present. This is critically important, because we have a whole number of oral targeted therapies that can go after these mutations or alterations, and in other words, they go after the vulnerability in the cancer cells. That’s the adenocarcinoma histology.  

That’s the majority of non-small cell lung cancer diagnoses but I think also if you have been told your diagnosis is of squamous lung cancer, classically we don’t often think of those driver alterations or those fusions or mutations that I just spoke about. But I think it’s also quite important for patients in that situation to also undergo molecular testing.  

As we learn more and more, sometimes those squamous lung cancers can also bear those same alterations. Not to the same frequency, but they can be present, and I think it’s important as you’re thinking about a patient to try to understand what are all the tools I have for them to do that sequencing just to make sure you’re not missing something. So, that’s a really in-depth look to molecular testing.  

I’d like to transition to some of the other tests that would be necessary to help put that molecular testing in context. Another important piece is something called staging.  And staging is a way to determine if the lung cancer has traveled elsewhere in the body. 

Sometimes it can be involved in the lymph nodes of the middle of the chest. Sometimes it can go outside the chest. For example, to the bones or the liver or the brain, and understanding that information, understanding that lay of the land before we start treatment, is really important, not only for treatment selection, like the treatments, the medicines I would give as a medical oncologist.  

But also, in thinking about which other colleagues of mine who help take care of patients with lung cancer should I also involve in some of these treatment decisions. So, staging can often involve CT scans of the chest, abdomen, pelvis. A PET scan can be done. As well as an MRI of the brain. 

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Schenk, I just want to confirm that you’ve been speaking about molecular testing, that’s the same as biomarker testing, right? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Exactly. Exactly. 

Katherine Banwell:

And how is it performed? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

So, biomarker testing, molecular testing, NGS, there’s a whole range of synonyms we use, that is done primarily on the tumor tissue.  

So, the first test that usually comes back is a marker on the cancer cell. 

That’s PD-L1. That is an IHC test that is able to be done pretty quickly and we’re able to have a turnaround time of just a few days to understand that first biomarker. But the PD-L1 status does not make sense unless we have all of the other information to get the best context, the best understanding of the tumor and what drives the tumor. That additional testing is actually the next-generation sequencing where the genetic material of cancer cells, the DNA and RNA is sequenced in a laboratory to look for those mutations or fusions or other alterations that can drive the cancer cells. And again, it helps me identify additional vulnerabilities in the cancer cells to allow me to pick the optimal therapy for the patient in front of me.  

The tissue testing is the gold standard and we try to get all of our answers from the tissue. Sometimes we’re also able to get additional information from the blood, and that’s what’s called a liquid biopsy. Cancer cells – in some patients, cancer cells shed their genetic material into the bloodstream.  

And these specialized tests are able to pick up that genetic material, have the sequencing done on that, and then report back to me about what may or may not be found.  

Now, as I mentioned, not all of lung cancers shed this information into the blood, so it’s not – if the blood does not reveal an answer or information, that’s – we still need to look closer at the tissue, but occasionally if the blood reveals certain alterations, that can be acted upon, and we don’t have to wait for the tissue testing. 

I think one of the challenges that I absolutely sympathize with their biomarker or molecular testing is that it can take a series of weeks to really get all of the information necessary to make the best choice for the patient in front of us.  

And I have a – I have a saying I like to share with patients that is really important and I think really fundamental to the treatment choices for patients with lung cancer and that is, it’s better to get started on the right treatment rather than the fast one, and that’s true. We know through a series of clinical trials that if I were to start a patient on a treatment that wasn’t appropriate to their biomarkers I actually hurt them. So, I actually reduce how well their later therapies will work. 

And so, it’s a tough wait and I anxiously wait with all of my patients but it’s a really important – it’s really important to get all of that information together. 

Katherine Banwell:

Well, would the cancer change dramatically over a period of three or four weeks?  

Dr. Erin Schenk:

That’s it, you know, that’s a question I hear a lot from patients, and, again, to empathize with the agony of waiting, it’s hard to wait but I can tell you as a doctor who’s taken care of many, many patients with lung cancer the weeks do not make a difference in terms of will have – will it hurt me? So, it will not in general it does not hurt to wait. It’s better to get started on the right treatment because the right treatment has the highest chance of being effective. 

So, the two to three weeks very rarely in my experience has that changed a situation for a patient, but that’s also why we frequently do the liquid biopsy testing at the same time as the tissue testing, because we too want to try to get the answer as quick as possible. So, we try to exhaust all of the routes that we have to get the answer that we need for our patients. 

Katherine Banwell:

What about the latest advances, is there anything in lung cancer testing that patients should know about?  

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Yes, absolutely. I think more and more we’re using these liquid biopsies in different situations for patients with lung cancer. So, Katherine, you and I have mostly been talking about patients who’ve been diagnosed with metastatic disease or a disease that’s been spread outside of the lungs. The liquid biopsy testing, though we’re starting to use in patients who have tumors we can remove with surgery or tumors we can try to cure with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. 

And we’re using more as a marker of response, and what I mean by that is let’s say someone with a cancer that can be surgically resected or removed by surgery, we can check their liquid biopsy. And if we see a marker in their liquid biopsy, we can then follow that over time in conjunction with scans to try to understand is the cancer – you know, with all the information we can, is the cancer completely gone or are we starting to see that marker again? Do we need to think about doing different scans or different tests to look for a potential area of recurrence of the cancer? 

Katherine Banwell:

What sort of questions should patients be asking about their test results? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Uh-huh. I think there are – I think the primary question is “Have you sent my tissue for biomarker testing?” 

And this is true – in my opinion, this is true regardless of the stage of diagnosis, again in the non-small cell lung cancer space, and that’s because we are starting to use some of our targeted therapies as well as our immunotherapies in patients with cancer that can be resected by surgery or maybe would get chemotherapy and radiation therapy. So, these biomarkers are also important in that decision-making for patients that have an earlier stage of disease. And so, I think the first question is, “Has my tissue been sent for biomarker testing?” because I think that’s a part as a necessary part of care given the advances that we’ve made.  

That’s the first question, two, “When do you expect the results? When did it get sent off?” and then three, you know once that has been sent off and whether that’s tissue testing, liquid biopsy, or both, talking with your doctor and your team about what it means.  

How they incorporate this data into your treatment decisions, and then occasionally, asking about did they get all the information they need? Because while we’ve been able to do this biomarker testing for lung cancer for years now, you know, no test is perfect and sometimes cancer cells aren’t the best material to start with when you’re trying to get a really definitive answer.  

So, occasionally patients might need to be biopsied again to really and truly get the full spectrum of information necessary prior to making treatment decisions.  

Why Test Results Matter | Accessing Personalized Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment

Why Test Results Matter | Accessing Personalized Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Can test results affect non-small cell lung cancer treatment options? Dr. Erin Schenk reviews essential lung cancer testing, discusses how the results may influence treatment approaches, and explains why it’s important for patients to take an active role in their care and treatment choices.

Dr. Erin Schenk is a medical oncologist, lung cancer researcher, and assistant professor in the division of medical oncology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center.

Download Program Resource Guide

See More From INSIST! Lung Cancer

Related Resources:

An Expert Explains Predictive Biomarker Testing for Lung Cancer

An Expert Explains Predictive Biomarker Testing for Lung Cancer

Advances in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing

Advances in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing

What Biomarkers Affect Lung Cancer Care and Treatment

What Biomarkers Affect Lung Cancer Care and Treatment?


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Hello, and welcome. I’m Katherine Banwell, your host for today’s program. Today we’re going to discuss the latest advances in lung cancer including the role of genetic testing and how this may affect treatment options. Before we get into the discussion, please remember that this program is not a substitute for seeking medical advice. Please refer to your healthcare team about what might be best for you. Well, let’s meet our guest today. Joining me is Dr. Erin Schenk. Dr. Schenk, welcome, would you please introduce yourself? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

And thanks so much, Katherine. I’m Dr. Erin Schenk. I’m a medical oncologist at the University of Colorado and I have a great position where I’m able to take care of patients with lung cancer in the clinic and also, do laboratory-based research on new and different therapies for lung cancer. Thanks so much for having me. 

Katherine Banwell:

That’s so great. Oh, I’m so glad you were able to join us today. Because this program is part of our Insist series which empowers patients to insist on better care. Can you tell us why you think it’s important for patients to speak up and engage in their lung cancer care decisions?  

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely, and I think as a physician it’s important not only to partner with patients but as well as their loved ones and their caregivers who help navigate this diagnosis of lung cancer. There are some diagnoses in the world, cancer being one of them and lung cancer especially that can turn everything upside down. So, it completely changes your world. Suddenly the life as you’ve been living it, the plans you had they all have to be paused or halted in some way to get care for the lung cancer diagnosis.  

One of the – and one of the really hopeful parts about being a doctor who cares for patients with lung cancer is just the speed of the advancements and the speed of the changes in the treatment options that we have for patients diagnosed with really any type of lung cancer.  

And so, I think it’s really important when you’re meeting with your team and you’re talking with your cancer doctor to really try to understand what is the information that they use to make some of these decisions or referrals on your behalf? And also, think about, is there an opportunity for me to get another opinion about what might be the best options? 

Katherine Banwell:

Thank you for that Dr. Schenk, that’s helpful as we begin our discussion today. I’d like to start with some basics. What are the various subtypes of lung cancer, and how are they identified?  

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely. So, there are a number of different subtypes of lung cancer that are important for us to identify, because it helps to stratify or helps to select the right treatment approaches for a patient. So, usually when someone is diagnosed with lung cancer there was a scan done at some point that noticed a mass or masses in the body. 

What happens next is a biopsy happens where a needle is used to sample the tissue, and that could be in the lung, that could be in lymph nodes or other parts of the body and that tissue that’s sampled is first sent to my colleagues in pathology.  

And they’re a group of doctors who look at tissues underneath the microscope and try to identify what those are. And based on that initial pathology analysis, we can identify usually pretty straightforward, what is the type of cancer that they see under the microscope.  

And so, in very general terms there are non-small cell lung cancers, there is a group called small cell lung cancers, and there’s also a group called neuroendocrine cancers as well. Oftentimes, times we’re able to differentiate these types of tumors, these types of lung cancers based on how different markers show up, and these are called stains. 

And these stains can differentiate non-small cell between adenocarcinoma versus squamous cell carcinoma. And then they can also help differentiate small cell lung cancer. And then, of course, they can also help to identify if this is a neuroendocrine tumor. 

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. Thank you so much for explaining that. Today we’re going to focus on non-small cell lung cancer. Are there specific tests that patients should ask their doctor for following a diagnosis?  

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely, and I think it’s sometimes helpful to understand what are all the pieces of information I need when I first meet a patient to make decisions about treatments? So, we just went over the histology or another word, the pathology, what does the cancer look like underneath – under the microscope? That can help and that’s one of the pieces, understanding what type of non-small cell lung cancer is present. 

Additional information that’s needed includes certain tests, and you might hear say like, molecular testing or sequencing. Those pieces of information can be really important for treatment selection. So, whether there’s a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma or squamous cell lung cancer, we always try to know the PD-L1 status. And that’s actually a surface marker that’s present on the outside of the cancer cells and is able to help us select immunotherapy treatments as appropriate.  

Oftentimes, patients with lung adenocarcinoma will get further sequencing of the tumor itself. And again, you might hear of this called molecular testing or next-generation sequencing, NGS. There are a lot of terms we use for it, but fundamentally, what we’re trying to do is understand the vulnerabilities of the cancer cells. 

And these vulnerabilities can be identified by these molecular tests. They often are able to recognize mutations or fusions or genetic changes within the cancer cells that are present. This is critically important, because we have a whole number of oral targeted therapies that can go after these mutations or alterations, and in other words, they go after the vulnerability in the cancer cells. That’s the adenocarcinoma histology.  

That’s the majority of non-small cell lung cancer diagnoses but I think also if you have been told your diagnosis is of squamous lung cancer, classically we don’t often think of those driver alterations or those fusions or mutations that I just spoke about. But I think it’s also quite important for patients in that situation to also undergo molecular testing.   

As we learn more and more, sometimes those squamous lung cancers can also bear those same alterations. Not to the same frequency, but they can be present, and I think it’s important as you’re thinking about a patient to try to understand what are all the tools I have for them to do that sequencing just to make sure you’re not missing something. So, that’s a really in-depth look to molecular testing.  

I’d like to transition to some of the other tests that would be necessary to help put that molecular testing in context. Another important piece is something called staging. And staging is a way to determine if the lung cancer has traveled elsewhere in the body.  

Sometimes it can be involved in the lymph nodes of the middle of the chest. Sometimes it can go outside the chest. For example, to the bones or the liver or the brain, and understanding that information, understanding that lay of the land before we start treatment, is really important, not only for treatment selection, like the treatments, the medicines I would give as a medical oncologist.  

But also, in thinking about which other colleagues of mine who help take care of patients with lung cancer should I also involve in some of these treatment decisions. So, staging can often involve CT scans of the chest, abdomen, pelvis. A PET scan can be done. As well as an MRI of the brain. 

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Schenk, I just want to confirm that you’ve been speaking about molecular testing, that’s the same as biomarker testing, right?  

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Exactly. Exactly.  

Katherine Banwell:

And how is it performed? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

So, biomarker testing, molecular testing, NGS, there’s a whole range of synonyms we use, that is done primarily on the tumor tissue.   

So, the first test that usually comes back is a marker on the cancer cell. 

That’s PD-L1. That is an IHC test that is able to be done pretty quickly and we’re able to have a turnaround time of just a few days to understand that first biomarker. But the PD-L1 status does not make sense unless we have all of the other information to get the best context, the best understanding of the tumor and what drives the tumor. That additional testing is actually the next-generation sequencing where the genetic material of cancer cells, the DNA and RNA is sequenced in a laboratory to look for those mutations or fusions or other alterations that can drive the cancer cells. And again, it helps me identify additional vulnerabilities in the cancer cells to allow me to pick the optimal therapy for the patient in front of me. 

The tissue testing is the gold standard and we try to get all of our answers from the tissue. Sometimes we’re also able to get additional information from the blood, and that’s what’s called a liquid biopsy. Cancer cells – in some patients, cancer cells shed their genetic material into the bloodstream.  

And these specialized tests are able to pick up that genetic material, have the sequencing done on that, and then report back to me about what may or may not be found.  

Now, as I mentioned, not all of lung cancers shed this information into the blood, so it’s not – if the blood does not reveal an answer or information, that’s – we still need to look closer at the tissue, but occasionally if the blood reveals certain alterations, that can be acted upon, and we don’t have to wait for the tissue testing. 

I think one of the challenges that I absolutely sympathize with their biomarker or molecular testing is that it can take a series of weeks to really get all of the information necessary to make the best choice for the patient in front of us.  

And I have a saying I like to share with patients that is really important and I think really fundamental to the treatment choices for patients with lung cancer and that is, it’s better to get started on the right treatment rather than the fast one, and that’s true. We know through a series of clinical trials that if I were to start a patient on a treatment that wasn’t appropriate to their biomarkers I actually hurt them. So, I actually reduce how well their later therapies will work. 

And so, it’s a tough wait and I anxiously wait with all of my patients but it’s a really important – it’s really important to get all of that information together. 

Katherine Banwell:

Well, would the cancer change dramatically over a period of three or four weeks? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

That’s it, you know, that’s a question I hear a lot from patients, and, again, to empathize with the agony of waiting, it’s hard to wait but I can tell you as a doctor who’s taken care of many, many patients with lung cancer the weeks do not make a difference in terms of will have – will it hurt me? So, it will not in general it does not hurt to wait. It’s better to get started on the right treatment because the right treatment has the highest chance of being effective. 

So, the two to three weeks very rarely in my experience has that changed a situation for a patient, but that’s also why we frequently do the liquid biopsy testing at the same time as the tissue testing, because we too want to try to get the answer as quick as possible. So, we try to exhaust all of the routes that we have to get the answer that we need for our patients. 

Katherine Banwell:

What about the latest advances, is there anything in lung cancer testing that patients should know about? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Yes, absolutely. I think more and more we’re using these liquid biopsies in different situations for patients with lung cancer. So, Katherine, you and I have mostly been talking about patients who’ve been diagnosed with metastatic disease or a disease that’s been spread outside of the lungs. The liquid biopsy testing, though we’re starting to use in patients who have tumors we can remove with surgery or tumors we can try to cure with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. 

And we’re using more as a marker of response, and what I mean by that is let’s say someone with a cancer that can be surgically resected or removed by surgery, we can check their liquid biopsy. And if we see a marker in their liquid biopsy, we can then follow that over time in conjunction with scans to try to understand is the cancer – you know, with all the information we can, is the cancer completely gone or are we starting to see that marker again? Do we need to think about doing different scans or different tests to look for a potential area of recurrence of the cancer? 

Katherine Banwell:

What sort of questions should patients be asking about their test results? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

I think the primary question is “Have you sent my tissue for biomarker testing?” 

And this is true – in my opinion, this is true regardless of the stage of diagnosis, again in the non-small cell lung cancer space, and that’s because we are starting to use some of our targeted therapies as well as our immunotherapies in patients with cancer that can be resected by surgery or maybe would get chemotherapy and radiation therapy. So, these biomarkers are also important in that decision-making for patients that have an earlier stage of disease. And so, I think the first question is, “Has my tissue been sent for biomarker testing?” because I think that’s a part as a necessary part of care given the advances that we’ve made.  

That’s the first question, two, “When do you expect the results? When did it get sent off?” and then three, you know once that has been sent off and whether that’s tissue testing, liquid biopsy, or both, talking with your doctor and your team about what it means.  

How they incorporate this data into your treatment decisions, and then occasionally, asking about did they get all the information they need? Because while we’ve been able to do this biomarker testing for lung cancer for years now, you know, no test is perfect and sometimes cancer cells aren’t the best material to start with when you’re trying to get a really definitive answer.  

So, occasionally patients might need to be biopsied again to really and truly get the full spectrum of information necessary prior to making treatment decisions.  

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah, great suggestions. Great ideas, thank you. We’re hearing the term personalized medicine a lot these days. Would you define the term for our audience? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely, and I think the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer is one of the poster childs for children – for personalized medicine because based on the result of the biomarker testing that’s what drives my choice of therapy because the biomarkers help to tell me what is this cancer most likely to be vulnerable to and that in my mind that’s a wonderful application of the promise of personalized medicine.   

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. Let’s move on to treatment now, Dr. Schenk. Would you walk us through the current treatments being used to treat non-small cell lung cancer? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely, and there are a broad range of options, and thankfully we have so many choices in how to best help patients. And it’s often why visiting with a center that sees a lot of patients with lung cancer can be beneficial so that you have all of the parties at the table that need to be there as we’re making these treatment decisions. So, I would start thinking about patients with early-stage disease. Often surgery if tumors are small enough and there’s not you know, no lymph nodes are involved with the cancer and it’s not anywhere else.  

Sometimes surgery is all that patients might need in terms of their treatment. Those are for patients with smaller tumors and really early-stage disease. As we move forward in the stages, meaning going from stage one to stage two, so a little bit bigger of a tumor, lymph nodes might be involved.  

That’s when really the multi-disciplinary approach happens, and what I mean by that is for example, at my institution where people like me, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and surgeons all sit down together to talk about a patient, their scans, you know, what is their health status, what is their biomarker testing, to try to come together to form a treatment approach. And so, at our institution, you know, frequently in stage two to stage three tumors based on biomarker testing we either select upfront surgery followed by chemotherapy followed by sometimes targeted therapies or TKIs.  

Those are the medicines, the TKI, those are the medicines that are really dependent on the presence of biomarker testing. So, the biomarkers often tell us for example if there’s an EGFR mutation. If that’s present then I would use an EGFR TKI, for example. 

But if those biomarkers don’t show a alteration where I have TKI to use, then we frequently are giving patients chemotherapy plus immunotherapy before surgery. This approach is called a neoadjuvant chemoimmunotherapy approach, and it’s one of the newer changes to lung cancer care within the past year that I think really is going to have a positive impact on outcomes for patients with lung cancer.   

So, just again in broad strokes, and then as we move into stage three patients where we can’t resect the tumor, that’s where we give chemotherapy medicines plus radiation therapy. Oftentimes followed by immunotherapy and then when patients have disease that spread outside of the chest, outside of the lungs, the metastatic setting or stage IV, that’s when we think about the whole host of therapies available through medical oncology, systemic therapies is another way to call them.  

And there we think about immunotherapy-based treatments plus or minus chemotherapy or we think about targeted therapy-based approaches with those TKIs. And again, it’s all based on those molecular markers, those biomarkers. 

Katherine Banwell:

Do clinical trials play a role in lung cancer treatment? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Clinical trials are incredibly important for the treatment of lung cancer. These are the tests and the procedures that we do that have continuously advanced our ability to care for patients with lung cancer. You know, it was clinical trial data that helped us get alerted to doing chemotherapy and immunotherapy before surgery really can help patients do better. And similarly, clinical trials have helped us define when do we use TKIs or targeted therapies. 

So, I think that’s another great question to ask your team of, “Based on all of the information you know about me and my cancer are there clinical trials options that are available here where I’m at or ones that are really interesting or appealing elsewhere that might be worthwhile for me to consider?” So, clinical trials are a critical part of how we help patients do better.  

Katherine Banwell:

Personalizing therapy involves taking into account a number of patient factors. What should be considered when deciding on a treatment regimen for a given patient?   

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Yes. That’s a great question and one that is really important in formulating a treatment plan. So, some patients because of their health status, for example, aren’t able to undergo surgery, and that happens. And so, occasionally sort of their health status maybe their lungs don’t work as well as they used to or the heart doesn’t pump as well as it used to. 

You know, those sorts of health concerns can help us tailor and personalize treatments to what would be the most – the safest but also the most effective approach. Occasionally patients have another long-term chronic disease where using immunotherapy might be more dangerous than helpful because they’re sometimes autoimmune diseases.  

Especially ones that affect the brain, so for example multiple sclerosis can be one of those or disease that affect the lungs, you know, interstitial lung diseases. Those would put a patient at great risk of receiving immunotherapy, but outside of the health status, it’s also important I think to talk about what your preferences are as a patient as well.  

Because sometimes we will come to you and say, “Here are these multiple different choices and what’s important to you or maybe what you’re worried about or what you’re concerned about are considerations that we want to hear about and understand so that we can talk you through the process and help make some of these decisions.” You know, for example, if you’re receiving chemotherapy plus radiation together for your cancer care that can be a huge time commitment.  

What I mean by that is when patients get radiation in certain circumstances, that can be once a day every day, Monday through Friday for six weeks at a time and sometimes patients have challenges with transportation. Or sometimes they have you know, challenges balancing a job or childcare or other things like that. So, these are all part of the – just part of bringing it all together and putting together a treatment plan that makes sense for what we understand about the lung cancer itself, but also what we understand about you as our patient. 

You know, how can we make changes or make suggestions that would best fit for you and your needs? 

Katherine Banwell:

You’ve brought up some really good points and of course, patients should be involved in these decisions. If a patient is feeling uncomfortable with their care plan, why do you think it’s important for them to speak up? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

In my experience, when people are worried about certain things or they say they definitely don’t want this therapy it’s because they have seen other loved ones or family members suffer because of that particular type of treatment in the past. And I think bringing up those concerns can be helpful for me as someone’s doctor to talk them through, okay, this is what chemotherapy looks like. This is what we do to help reduce your side effects.  

These are the resources we have to support you through treatment if any of these side effects come about and I think I also impress upon them that receiving treatment is ultimately their decision now. My bias of course, I think we can help patients quite a bit with their treatments, but I think it’s also important to recognize you know, they have autonomy to say no at any point in time. And I think just acknowledging those fears, acknowledging those concerns, putting together a plan you know, before any of those potential worrisome side effects happen can be really powerful to help reduce some of the stress and worry around treatment. 

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Schenk, when should patients consider a second opinion or even consulting a specialist? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

I think any time it’s appropriate. We – at our institution, we’re one of the main lung cancer centers that – you know, within several hundred miles, so we frequently see patients and sometimes it’s just to check in and say you know, the patient says, “Here’s what my team has started me on. You know, what do you think should be the next approach?” and we talk about that, but really anytime I think is appropriate for reaching out for another set of eyes to look at things. I would say perhaps some of those most critical times would be prior to treatment starts especially if – yeah, I would say prior to starting a treatment with that new diagnosis.  

That would be a really critical time because often again, sometimes once we start down a treatment path, we’re in some ways we’re committed, but if that maybe isn’t the optimal treatment path based on, you know, the tumor and the biomarkers and the patient preference starting on that less optimal treatment path could potentially hurt patients in the long run. So, I would say at – you know, potentially at diagnosis when a treatment course is recommended and then if there is a need to change treatments.  

So, for example, especially in the metastatic setting there are certain therapies widely available. People are very familiar with them, can start them no problem, but when those treatments stop being beneficial that might be a time to also meet with a specialist or go to a lung cancer center of excellence to get their opinions on what to do next.  

Katherine Banwell:

You know, one thing patients are often concerned about is the financial aspect, the financial burden that is involved in their treatment care. How do they deal with that? Are there resources available for them? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

There can be and this definitely can vary based on what treatment you’re being given and where you are, at what institution and what state you’re being treated at since resources are different. But for example, the targeted therapies or the TKIs I made reference to earlier, those can have some significant out-of-pocket costs and most of the,  if not all of the manufacturers of those various TKIs have patient assistance programs that help to reduce the out-of-pocket costs for those specific medicines.  

When I prescribe a TKI for a patient often what’s part of that is a prior authorization to try to understand what’s the out-of-pocket cost for the patient and then kind of get on top of whether or not we need to apply for patient assistance to help pay for the cost of that medication. So, that’s one way that we can help. 

I think, in again, this is specific to my institution and our clinical practice, but we often have – we work very closely with other cancer doctors in the community. So, if traveling to our site is a major burden we can usually have them visit with a oncologist who’s close to them so there’s less travel, there’s less costs in you know gas and staying somewhere. But they still can be connected with us. So, while they can get most of their care under a doctor that’s closer to them, every so often they come back and see me and just talk about how things are going and what you know might be worthwhile to consider down the road.  

And I would also recommend that if there are other costs or concerns you know, kind of above and beyond these things that we’ve touched on, connecting with a social worker through the cancer center can be helpful in dealing with paperwork for disability or retirement or sometimes connecting to resources if there’s a childcare need. 

Or you’re caring for a spouse and you need additional help at home. You know all of the different burdens that are present in life that just get magnified with a cancer diagnosis and you know, we can – there’s usually a really big attempt to try to find a way to help figure out navigating those so that you can get the care you need.  

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah. Before we close, Dr. Schenk, I’d like to get your final thoughts. What would you like to leave the audience with? Are you hopeful? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Yes. There are tremendous – there has been tremendous growth and change in the practice in how we treat patients with lung cancer, even just in the past handful of years and it’s made marked improvements in how well people do and for how long they do well. 

And that – you know that trajectory I anticipate continuing based on the clinical trials I’ve been involved with as well as the data I hear about from other clinical trials thinking about new and different medicines that we could use in the diagnosis of lung cancer. As well as applying some of the medicines we already have in different ways and different situations you know, to help better control the cancer or help even increase the cure rate in certain situations.  

So, I think there are a number of reasons to be hopeful and if you visit with your team of doctors and that you don’t get that sense of hope or you don’t hear about all the different ways that they can help you, you know that might be a time to really think about, “Perhaps I need to get a second opinion and hear about some of these developments or some these other ways that potentially I could be treated with my new diagnosis of lung cancer.”   

So, I think there are a lot of reasons to be hopeful. Lung cancer, of course, is still a serious life-changing diagnosis, but there are ways we can help regardless of what the stage is or where you’re at in life. I think there are opportunities for us to still help you. 

Katherine Banwell:

It sounds promising, Dr. Schenk. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely. Thank you for the invitation.  

Katherine Banwell:

And thank you to all of our partners. To learn more about lung cancer and to access tools to help you become a proactive patient visit powerfulpatients.org.  

I’m Katherine Banwell, thanks for being with us today.