Sponsored Content by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson

When it comes to new therapies, patients with lung cancer face a significant global unmet medical need. Not only does lung cancer have the highest mortality rate of all cancers worldwide, it’s associated with significant heterogeneity – with many driver mechanisms that make it complex and difficult to treat. 

“The driver mechanisms we have come to understand have provided important insights into new approaches for treating lung cancer,” said Matt Lorenzi, PhD., Vice President, Disease Area Leader, Solid Tumor Targeted Therapy, Janssen. “Through deeper knowledge about the biology of lung cancer, we are making progress in the advancement of precision medicines that target specific pathways, including patients who have developed a resistance to other therapies.”

Ongoing research efforts are continuing to show promise. Targeted therapy approaches that have derived from an understanding of driver mechanisms have helped contribute to a decline in mortality from non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common type of lung cancer, as recently reported in The New England Journal of Medicine. In addition, immunotherapy-based approaches to reactivate or redirect a patient’s immune system for tumor targeting are standard of care or showing future promise, respectively.

For key oncogenic driver pathways, researchers are learning much more about the role that various genetic mutations and alterations play, and development efforts are focused on precisely targeting these defects. One of the most common genetic alterations in NSCLC is epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a mutation that helps cells grow and divide. While targeting EGFR has proven to be an effective treatment intervention, tumors eventually become resistant to treatment. Therefore, the role of bispecific therapies, meaning treatments that target more than one pathway, is becoming increasingly important in the treatment of lung and other types of cancer, along with new combination-based regimens.

“As researchers learn more about non-small cell lung cancer — specifically as it relates to how certain genetic factors can influence the severity of disease and how a patient responds to treatment — the importance of genetic testing is becoming clear, as is the importance of novel modalities  and combination therapies,” said Lorenzi. “The complexity of lung cancer highlights the importance of developing regimens that incorporate multiple mechanisms of action to target the key pathways underlying the disease. We aim for treatment to act against each person’s unique cancer, as effectively and safely as possible.”

While targeted therapies are among the most discussed current research avenues, other areas are proving promising as well. One uses an approach called synthetic lethality against additional genetic alterations in lung cancer, and another uses immune cell re-direction to leverage the immune system to specifically target lung cancer cells with tumor-associated antigens.   

These therapeutic developments offer a promising outlook for the future of lung cancer treatment and are further complemented by exciting efforts underway through the Johnson & Johnson Lung Cancer Initiative, which are focused on unique approaches to intercept the disease at its earliest stage or to prevent it altogether.

Despite many encouraging treatment advances in lung cancer, its five-year survival rate remains among the lowest of any cancer. Improving this statistic will require the ongoing development of novel treatments, the identification of strategic collaborators, and the advancement of scientific leadership in disease prevention and interception. As an organization that has been at the forefront of the discovery and development of new cancer therapies for more than a decade, Janssen, together with the Johnson & Johnson Lung Cancer Initiative, is committed to advancing novel approaches to support efforts throughout the medical community to transform the trajectory of lung cancer.