The Lung Cancer Moon Shot has identified two drugs approved for leukemia that potentially hit lung cancer targets in some patients.
One, the targeted therapy ibrutinib, already is in a moon shot clinical trial for lung cancer patients with specific mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) protein.
“We know there won’t be one treatment for lung cancer because it’s not one disease,” says moon shot co-leader John Heymach, M.D., Ph.D., and chair of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology. “We’ll do better treating patients in subgroups based on genetic mutations that drive their disease.”
The moon shot screened 30 drugs approved by the FDA for other cancers against 90 human non-small lung cancer cell lines to identify ibrutinib and another drug yet to go to trial.
“It costs hundreds of millions of dollars and takes 10 years to develop a new drug from scratch,” Heymach notes. “When we identify approved drugs, we can move them right into a clinical trial.”
Catching cancer early
Screening former and present heavy smokers with a low-dose CT scan catches enough treatable, early-stage lung cancer to reduce deaths from the disease by 20%.
“If you detect lung cancer early enough, 90% of those patients are cured,” Heymach says. Most lung cancer is only found much later, when treatment is markedly less successful.
The problem with low-dose CT screening is that 96% of detected spots and growths are false positives. Sam Hanash, Ph.D., professor in Clinical Cancer Prevention and head of the moon shots proteomics platform, leads a project to reduce false positives and identify bio¬markers that help determine who should be screened.
An MD Anderson study opened earlier this year to gather tissue from people who come in for screening, analyze it for telltale indicators of cancer and follow those screened over time.