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Personalized Medicine

In recent years, personalized medicine has become a very important part of treatment planning for people with non-small cell lung cancer. Because certain chemotherapy drugs are either more or less effective than others against tumors with certain mutations, molecular analysis of your tumor can help to determine which therapies will be most likely to benefit you.

Our pathologists have the ability to test your tumor for genetic mutations that we now know are closely linked to specific types of non-small cell lung cancer. Tumors in approximately 60 percent of patients with lung adenocarcinoma have been found to be linked to specific mutations. For some of these mutations, drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration are available. In others, experimental treatments being tested in clinical trials may be the best option.

Information about the genetics of a tumor can also help to predict the chances of cancer returning after surgery. And if a cancer has come back or cannot be cured with an operation or radiation therapy, knowing about these mutations can help your doctors to plan other treatments to shrink the tumor.

Our pathologists now include genetic testing of the tumor as a routine part of the diagnosis and staging procedure for all men and women treated for non-small cell lung cancer.

Our pathologists analyze cells in your tissue sample to look for genetic mutations that are found only in the cells of certain subtypes of lung cancer. The tissue is usually obtained during the biopsy that is performed to determine which type of lung cancer you have. Sometimes there may not be enough tissue left to perform the genetic testing, in which case you may be asked to have another biopsy.

Before we perform any tests, we will ask your permission to look for mutations that could help your doctor tell you whether a clinical trial of an experimental treatment might be an option for you.

Analyzing Tumors for Genetic Mutations

Samples from patients with lung cancer are routinely tested for all the major genetic mutations that are known to be clinically important in lung cancer.  Our experts use a
variety of technologies in collaboration with researchers at the Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology, a world leader in genomics.


Almost all of these genetic changes (called somatic mutations) are found only in cancer cells, not in your normal cells, and they cannot be passed on to your children.


The most common genetic changes that we test for in lung cancer are in the genes EGFR  and ALK.