Testing for Mutations Identified in Squamous Cell Lung Cancer Tumors Helps Personalize Treatment

Pictured: Paul Paik

Medical oncologist Paul Paik

Screening lung cancer tumor samples for cancer-causing, or “driver,” genetic mutations can help physicians tailor patients’ treatments to target those specific mutations. While scientists have identified cancer-causing mutations for the majority of lung adenocarcinomas — the most common type of non-small cell lung cancer — and have developed drugs that can successfully address them, scientists have not yet identified targeted therapies for another type of non-small cell lung cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma.

Now, researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have begun testing for three new genetic targets and found that together they occur in approximately 50 percent of patients with squamous cell carcinomas of the lung, which affects 40,000 Americans each year. Initial findings of the research will be presented on June 4 at the 2012 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting.

“In the span of one year, we have gone from having essentially zero clinical trials of targeted therapies to offer our squamous cell lung cancer patients to being able to offer clinical trials of targeted therapies to upwards of 50 percent,” said Paul K. Paik, a medical oncologist on Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Thoracic Oncology Service and lead investigator of the new molecular testing project known as the Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Lung Mutation Analysis Program, or SQ-MAP.

Memorial Sloan Kettering was one of the first centers to use this type of genetic testing for lung cancer patients and is currently one of the only centers testing for mutations in squamous cell carcinomas of the lung. Memorial Sloan Kettering is also one of only a handful of centers in the world that conducts genetic testing of the tumor as a routine part of diagnosis and staging for patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

Genetic testing of lung adenocarcinomas is conducted as part of the Lung Cancer Mutation Analysis Project (LC-MAP), which began at Memorial Sloan Kettering in January 2009. SQ-MAP, which began in October 2011, has already identified cancer-causing mutations in 50 percent of squamous cell lung carcinoma tumors tested. Enrollment is now open for two clinical trials of new targeted therapies for this type of cancer, and a third clinical trial is planned.

Dr. Paik received a Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Career Development Award and a Geoffrey Beene Grant Award for this project.


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Dear Laurie, sorry to hear about your brother’s diagnosis. If he would like to make an appointment to consult with a specialist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 800-525-2225. Thank you.

Hi! My brother, 78 yo, was recently diagnosed with lung squamous cell carcinoma. He lives in China. Are you aware of any center in China who does the clinical trial? Thanks!

Mr. Guo, thank you for your comment. We suggest going to the website www.clinicaltrials.gov, which is now international and lists clinical trials in countries around the world. You can check to see whether a clinical trial for lung squamous cell carcinoma is being conducted in China.

Hi, I have NSCLC/SQUAMOUS with a PIK3CA mutation. I am currently on a 2nd line chemo Taxotere. Do I qualify for your trials on this mutation?

Dear Maria, thanks so much for reaching out. Currently we don’t have any open clinical trials specifically for P1K3CA, but there may be other trials you qualify for. If you’d like to make an appointment with one of doctors to find out if there are other treatment options for you, please call 800-525-2225, or you can go here to learn more: www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/appointment. You may also wish to search the clinical trials data base of the National Cancer Institute: http://www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials/search. Thanks so much for your question, and we wish you all the best.

I had a right lower lobe VATS on 10/10/17 for removal of right lower lung lobe for growing nodule. Pathology revealed carcinoid tumor. Since then I've developed some heart arrythmias, generally tired and PCP told me I should have a work up for carcinoid syndrome or to find out if carcinoid is somewhere else in my body.
Does MSK handle/diagnose/treat this?
Please advise of a department/physician/location for me.
I live in Nassau county, Long Island.
Thank you kindly

Dear Tinamarie, we’re sorry to hear about your diagnosis. We do have doctors with expertise in treating this type of tumor. The closest location to where you live would be our center in Commack. If you would like to make an appointment, you can call 800-525-2225 or go to https://www.mskcc.org/experience/become-patient/appointment to learn more. Thank you for your comment and best wishes to you.