Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) for Lung Cancer
- Next-generation sequencing (NGS), a type of molecular testing, can help you and your doctor decide on the best course of lung cancer treatment.
- The test can reveal a broad list of genes or biomarkers that might aid your doctor in determining your eligibility for targeted therapy and immunotherapy.
- NGS testing opens the door for personalized, targeted, and informed care in lung cancer.
Advanced-stage lung cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy, a combination of chemo-immunotherapy, immunotherapy, or a targeted agent. Targeted drugs are recommended if your doctor detects the tumor’s specific mutation in next-generation sequencing (NGS), and then targets those mutations with an already-approved therapy.
What is NGS TestingRead More
Who is Eligible for the NGS Testing
NGS has become the standard of care in lung cancer treatment. You may be a candidate for NGS testing if you have been diagnosed with:
- Advanced stage adenocarcinoma of the lung
- Advanced-stage squamous cell cancer of the lung
- Advanced-stage adenosquamous cancer of the lung
In early-stage lung cancer, you should discuss if NGS testing could be right for you, too. “Molecular testing should always be part of discussions between you and your healthcare team. It is important to make decisions on molecular testing together and come up with a plan,” says Dr. Anagnostou.
How Does NGS Testing Work in Lung Cancer
For people with lung cancer, the goal of NGS is to find your tumor’s specific mutations; and then target those mutations with an already-approved therapy or a targeted therapy. NGS testing gives your doctor a more complete profile of your lung cancer to help identify proven, targeted treatments.
“Next-generation sequencing is our preferred approach, which is really a comprehensive panel that’s looking at many different changes within a patient’s tumor,” says Dr. Katherine A. Scilla, thoracic medical oncologist at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The gold standard to find an actionable mutation in lung cancer remains the tumor tissue itself (tissue biopsy). Also, newer technologies such as a liquid biopsy that looks at circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) can be used for NGS testing. A liquid biopsy measures DNA that’s shed from dead tumor cells. The test results from the liquid biopsy come back faster than the tissue biopsy. That’s why your doctor may send both the tissue-based NGS and a liquid biopsy simultaneously to find if the cancer is actionable and if so, to find it sooner.
Your doctor may need to obtain additional NGS testing if your cancer continues to grow and has become resistant to targeted therapy.
What are the Most Common Mutations in Lung Cancer
The following are the most common mutations that have FDA-approved targeted treatment options for you:
NGS Testing on Treatment Decisions and Prognosis
“Molecular testing or profiling has become a very important tool for medical oncologists to decide on the best treatment for a patient that has advanced non-small cell lung cancer. And this molecular profiling is looking at specific gene alterations within a patient’s tumor,” explains Dr. Scilla.
Looking at the broad list of mutation profiles by the NGS testing, your doctor can provide specific information on
- Whether you’re likely to benefit from a targeted agent
- What targeted agent is available for you
- Whether the targeted agent makes you live longer and with better quality of life
- Finding a clinical trial that is right for you
“Several clinical trials include in their eligibility criteria, a specific mutation in a specific gene; your cancer molecular testing can identify these changes in the genetic makeup of cancer cells. And as such match your cancer and you as an individual with a clinical trial where an investigational targeted therapy is tested that may improve your outcome and overall survival,” explains Dr. Anagnostou.
You and your doctor will consider this information with other factors such as any contraindications of certain medications, interactions with other drugs, and side effects. Together you can make decisions about whether you should have targeted therapy.
Targeted Therapies in Lung Cancer
Targeted therapy has made the biggest impact on lung cancer. It is a type of treatment that works by identifying specific markers that directly target what is causing the tumor to grow. By doing so, they can reduce side effects while increasing the chances of a successful long-lasting response.
“Targeted therapy agents can be given orally. They (targeted agents) tend to be very efficacious, sometimes patients can respond to these treatments for many years, and also (can be) less toxic than traditional chemotherapy or other agents that we have,” added Dr. Scilla.
Newer Targeted Agents Made Possible Using NGS Testing
- EGFR Mutations: Present in about 10-15% of lung cancers in the United States. Tagrisso (Generic name: osimertinib), is an oral medication approved for EGFR gene mutation.
- Targeting EGFR exon20 mutation was a challenge for a long time and yet this is one of the most common mutations we find when we do NGS testing. Exkivity (Generic name: mobocertinib) and Rybrevant (Generic name: amivantamab) are the two drugs that target EGFR exon20 mutations.
- KRAS mutations occur in about 20% of patients with lung adenocarcinomas. Lumakras (Generic name: Sotorasib) and Krazati (Generic name: Adagrasib) can target KRAS G12C mutations.
- Targeted therapy may still be an option even if your cancer grows after being on first-line therapy.
- Also, if you do not test positive for any of the mutations with an approved targeted therapy, you may qualify for immunotherapy with or without traditional chemotherapy based on your PD-L1 testing.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- How aggressively should we treat my cancer?
- Am I eligible to receive targeted therapy?
- Am I more, or less, likely to respond to this treatment?
- Do I have any genetic mutation that would change the course of my treatment?
- Is there a clinical trial that would be relevant for me?
- How long will it take to get my NGS testing results?