Targeted therapy drugs are most often used for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), either along with chemotherapy or by themselves, to stop cancer cells from growing and spreading. They are called “targeted” due to the nature of the drugs that target specific characteristics of the cancer19.
Angiogenesis Inhibitors: Tumor blood vessel growth inhibitors20
Angiogenesis, the development of new blood vessels from preexisting vessels is crucial for continued primary tumor growth, facilitation of metastasis (spread), subsequent support for metastatic tumor growth, and thus cancer progression. Angiogenesis in advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) can be blocked by using angiogenesis inhibitors in the treatment.
Therapies disrupting gene alterations (mutations)20
Targeted therapy for advanced NSCLC also works by disrupting the mutation of specific types of genes that can stem the growth of the cancer.
Cells with EGFR alterations20
Some NSCLC patients can harbor sensitizing mutations in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which is a protein found on certain types of cells and is involved in signaling pathways that control cell division and survival. Mutation in EGFR can cause the cancer cells to grow faster. These mutations are more common in women and non-smokers21. Drugs called EGFR inhibitors target mutant EGFR proteins to block the growth signal.
Cells with ALK alterations20
About 5% of NSCLC patients have a rearrangement in a gene called anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK). This change is most often seen in non-smokers (or light smokers) who have adenocarcinoma, a malignant tumor formed from glandular structures in epithelial tissue. The ALK gene rearrangement produces an abnormal ALK protein that causes uncontrolled cellular proliferation and survival of cancer cells. Drugs called ALK inhibitors target abnormal ALK proteins to block the abnormal growth signal.
Cells with BRAF alterations20
BRAF gene normally encodes a protein called B-Raf but mutations can make an aberrant BRAF protein that causes abnormal cell growth. BRAF/MEK inhibitors that target BRAF mutations in the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway can be used for this subset of patients.
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