Researchers Highlight Need for Additional Research in Advanced Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer

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A survey that analyzed treatment options and research for patients with NSCLC was conducted with medical oncologists.

New study findings highlight the need for more research in various capacities to aid and improve patient outcomes among individuals diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The findings were discovered through an online survey by The Harris Poll and were commissioned by the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

Non Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) in the lung tissue – isometric view 3d illustration - Image credit: LASZLO | stock.adobe.com

Image credit: LASZLO | stock.adobe.com

Annually, more than 238,000 individuals are diagnosed with lung cancer and around 8 in 10 diagnoses are NSCLC, according to study authors. However, because NSCLC is commonly diagnosed in more progressive stages, it becomes more difficult to treat.

The survey was conducted from October 17 to November 8, 2023, and included 250 United States medical oncologists from 37 different states. The oncologists practiced in a wide range of settings, including private practice, community hospitals, and national cancer centers. The study authors noted that the oncologists included in the survey were required to have treated a minimum of 10 individuals with advanced NSCLC in a standard month.

“I have seen firsthand the significant impact that an advanced NSCLC diagnosis has on patients, their families and health systems,” said Julie Brahmer, MD, MSc, Co-Director of the Upper Aerodigestive Department, Bloomberg Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Johns Hopkins, in a press release. “These findings remind us there is still work to do and that our collective dedication to the research of advanced NSCLC, specifically in areas such as biomarker testing and treatment of subpopulations, is crucial to ensuring our patients have the best possible options available to them.”

The results of the survey found that 96% of the oncologists agreed that multiple treatment options are beneficial for patients for NSCLC, especially due to varying characteristics and comorbidities among diagnosed patients. Furthermore, 88% of oncologists answered that more clinical research is needed to treat the patients who experience advanced NSCLC with comorbidities.

Nearly all respondents (94%) also believed that it is essential to include the patient in treatment decisions. Oncologists reported that necessary considerations when deciding treatment options with patients included treatment efficacy (93%), biomarkers (86%), and safety/possible adverse effects (83%).

Pharmacists also play a key role in identifying treatment options and optimal regimens. NSCLC treatment regimens can be particularly complex, so pharmacists often are involved in multiple ways. For instance, some pharmacists may work particularly with oral oncolytic agents and can provide their expertise when patients are initiating therapy with an EGFR inhibitor.

Patients are also increasingly involved in their own treatment decisions, so pharmacists can be crucial in educating and improving health literacy. Many cancer centers provide short educational videos that explain different disease states and treatments in layman's terms, and pharmacists can answer questions and be a resource for patients undergoing treatment.

On the topic of biomarkers, most oncologists (94%) answered that biomarker testing is impactful to aid treatment decisions for advanced NSCLC and the same percentage believed further research could improve treatment options for what is already known of biomarkers.

Additionally, 97% and 86% of oncologists answered that their patients with advanced NSCLC have received immunotherapy treatment in the first or second line, although 30% reported that more immunotherapy options could be beneficial. Despite this, 17% of oncologists answered that they are satisfied with the current options, describing them as "excellent." However, many oncologists (71%) answered that further research on combination treatments with immunotherapy would be helpful for patients with advanced NSCLC.

Most oncologists (82%) answered that they wish more clinical research was assessable for subpopulations of individuals diagnosed with advanced NSCLC, including patients with ECOG performance status of 2 and higher, patients 70 years and older, patients of color, and patients with metastatic disease.

“In our 70-year history as a pioneer of cancer immunology, CRI has been steadfast in our pursuit and discovery of cancer immunotherapy treatments for all cancers,” said Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD, CRI’s CEO and Director of Scientific Affairs, in a press release. “These survey findings demonstrate that oncologists want broader treatment options that can be tailored to their patients to provide the best possible outcome. CRI is looking forward to how we can lead the way in the development of new such immunotherapies for the thousands of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer in the US.”

Reference

New Survey of U.S. Oncologists Reveals Where More Work Can Be Done to Research Treatments for Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Cancer Research Institute. News release. January 24, 2024. Accessed February 6, 2024. https://www.cancerresearch.org/media-room/2024/new-survey-of-u-s-oncologists-reveals-where-more-work-can-be-done-to-research-treatments-for-advanced-non-small-cell-lung-cancer.

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