Diagnosis of lung cancer is overwhelming. From understanding the type and extent of the cancer and your treatment options, to preparing for the journey ahead, you aren’t alone if you feel unsure about where to begin.
Dr. Raymond Osarogiagbon (“Dr. O” for short), is an oncologist with the Baptist Cancer Center in Memphis, Tennessee, and treats a variety of individuals with lung cancer, including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Here, Dr. O tells us how biomarker testing before receiving treatment can help identify the appropriate treatment for patients with NSCLC, which may include targeted therapies. Targeted therapies use drugs to attack specific, biomarker-identified, types of cancer cells with less harm to normal cells. Some targeted therapies block the action of certain enzymes, proteins, or other molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells.
What are biomarkers and what is comprehensive biomarker testing?
Dr. O: A biomarker is a molecule that can be measured in your blood, other bodily fluids, or tissues that can help to identify the presence or predict the future behavior of a disease, in this case, lung cancer. Comprehensive biomarker testing includes all the biomarkers that are recommended for your type and stage of NSCLC based on the most current clinical guidelines.
Who should get comprehensive biomarker testing?
Dr. O: If you’ve been diagnosed with NSCLC, you should ask your doctor if you should have comprehensive biomarker testing before you start treatment, including when your cancer is first diagnosed, when it recurs or when it progresses.
What information can comprehensive biomarker testing results provide?
Dr. O: Testing for all the clinically recommended biomarkers helps your doctor understand the best treatment for your lung cancer. Biomarkers can tell us how well the cancer might respond to certain types of therapy and how we can tailor treatment for maximal benefit. Knowing your biomarker status may help you get the appropriate treatment for your type of NSCLC, which may include a targeted therapy.
How is comprehensive biomarker testing done? How long does it take to receive results?
Dr. O: During biomarker testing, your doctor may test part of your tumor that was removed (also known as a tissue biopsy) or test your blood (also known as a ‘liquid biopsy’) by sending the sample to a laboratory. Some biomarker tests take as little as two or three days to get back, others take up to three weeks, sometimes even more. But it’s important to wait for your results before starting treatment, if possible.
Do lung cancer patients of color face any barriers to biomarker testing?
Dr. O: Unfortunately, racial disparities exist across the cancer care continuum, including biomarker testing. Lung cancer patients of color―specifically Hispanic and Black patients―are less likely to receive biomarker testing than their white counterparts. This causes missed opportunities for optimal treatment.¹‚²
I am passionate about spreading awareness among these communities and empowering patients with the information they need to speak up and ask their doctor about testing. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself or seek a second opinion about treatment options based on your biomarker test results—you have a right to be proactive in decisions about your care.
Where can someone go to find more information about biomarker testing?
Dr. O: NoOneMissed.org is an excellent resource for those who would like to learn more about comprehensive biomarker testing, with stories from lung cancer patients and survivors who have experienced comprehensive biomarker testing firsthand. Additionally, the LUNGevity Foundation has robust resources, including the Patient Gateways, for patients to learn more about their unique type of lung cancer.
This content is brought to you by LUNGevity Foundation