Lung Cancer - Non-Small Cell: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 12/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done to learn more about this type of cancer and how to treat it. Use the menu to see other pages.

Doctors are working to learn more about non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the best diagnostic and treatment options for you.

  • Personalized drug therapy. Researchers are looking at features of lung tumors that can predict whether a specific drug, such as chemotherapy or targeted therapy, may be effective. To collect this information, patients are increasingly being asked to have additional analyses of the tumor samples taken when the disease is first diagnosed. In many patients for whom chemotherapy is recommended, the amount of tumor tissue removed during the biopsy to diagnose their cancer is not enough for these additional tests. These patients may be asked to have another biopsy to help plan treatment and, if part of a clinical trial, to help researchers find better ways to treat lung cancer. Learn more about personalized therapy.

  • Targeted therapy. Researchers are looking at gene and protein changes that could be new targets for treatment. These include changes called NRG fusion. Additional research is also being done to study drugs that can help patients after an initial targeted therapy stops working.

  • Immunotherapy. Promising results in immunotherapy for NSCLC and the recent approval of multiple types of immunotherapy are leading to more research on using these types of drugs to help the immune system control NSCLC growth.

  • Better techniques for surgery and radiation therapy. Doctors are finding ways to improve the effectiveness of surgery and radiation therapy while reducing the side effects of these procedures. For example, a current study is comparing the removal of early-stage NSCLC by lobectomy to removal by wedge resection or segmentectomy. This is to preserve nearby lung tissue. Stereotactic radiation therapy is also being studied for NSCLC. This technique is used to focus radiation therapy more directly on the cancer and avoids more of the healthy tissue. Advances in all types of treatment will improve doctors’ ability to combine medication, radiation therapy, and surgery for the treatment of all stages of NSCLC.

  • Liquid biopsies: Free-floating cancer DNA from blood tests can be used to find molecular changes in your cancer. These are typically used at initial diagnosis and at the time when certain targeted therapies are no longer working (at the time of acquired resistance to a treatment). Research is ongoing to evaluate new ways to use liquid biopsies to assess response to treatments or detect remaining cancer DNA after surgery.

  • Improved screening. NSCLC is more successfully treated in its early stages, which has raised interest in screening people for lung cancer before it causes signs and symptoms. Researchers are studying improved screening techniques, including genetic testing and blood tests to learn which people have a higher risk of lung cancer.

  • Stopping tobacco use. Even with the best methods for the early detection and treatment of lung cancer, the best way to save lives from lung cancer is through programs to encourage people to never begin smoking and, if they have, quit cigarette smoking. For most people, lung cancer is a highly preventable disease. Even for people diagnosed with lung cancer, stopping smoking lengthens their lives, lowers side effects, and lessens their chance of getting a second lung cancer. Quitting smoking is hard at any time, and even more so during cancer treatment. The health care team can help make it easier to quit smoking with nicotine replacement and other techniques. Read about one recent study that confirmed stopping smoking helps people with lung cancer. Research continues into new ways to help people stop smoking.

  • Palliative care/supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current lung cancer treatments to improve comfort and quality of life for patients.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like more information about the latest areas of research in NSCLC, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

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