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What is an EGFR mutation in lung cancer? And why should you be tested?

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Lung cancer is a complex, serious illness, and is responsible for the most cancer-related deaths worldwide–for both men and women. Despite lung cancer’s challenges and complexities, advancements in treatment innovation and personalized medicine offer hope to patients living with this diagnosis. One critical aspect of personalized lung cancer treatment is the identification of EGFR mutations. In this blog post, we discuss:

  • What is an EGFR mutation? 
  • Why should patients with a lung cancer diagnosis talk to their doctor about EGFR testing?

What is an EGFR mutation?

EGFR, which stands for Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor, is a gene responsible for coding a protein found on the surface of cells. This protein controls cell growth and division; however, when genetic alterations, or mutations, occur in the EGFR gene, it can lead to uncontrolled cell growth. Uncontrolled cell growth is a key indicator of cancer.

Why should lung cancer patients consider EGFR-mutation testing?

  1. Targeted therapies: Patients whose tumors have an EGFR mutation may benefit from what is known as a “targeted therapy.” These therapies, known as EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), are designed to specifically target cancer cells with an EGFR mutation. These treatments can slow down or even shrink tumors in patients with EGFR-mutated lung cancer, with the goal of leading to better treatment outcomes.
  2. Improved health outcomes: Lung cancer tumors with EGFR mutations tend to respond better to EGFR-targeted therapies than conventional chemotherapy. This can result in improved overall survival and a better quality-of-life for patients.
  3. Personalized medicine: EGFR mutation testing enables “personalized medicine,” where treatment decisions are tailored to an individual’s specific genetic profile, or the genetic makeup of their cancer. This approach allows for more precise and effective treatment, reducing the risk of unnecessary side effects from less effective therapies.
  4. Resistance mechanisms: Not all EGFR mutations respond similarly to the same targeted therapies. In some cases, resistance to initial EGFR TKI treatment may develop over time. Knowing the specific EGFR mutation enables oncologists to make informed decisions about treatment and potentially adjust therapy if resistance occurs.
  5. Clinical trials: Patients with EGFR-mutated lung cancer may also have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials evaluating new and more effective treatments. This provides access to cutting-edge therapies that are not yet widely available and can lead to potentially life-saving treatment.

Testing for EGFR mutations in lung cancer is an essential part of treatment. This testing involves a biopsy to obtain a tissue sample, which a lab then analyzes to identify the specific EGFR mutation. If you or a loved one is found to have an EGFR mutation, this is a good thing! It opens the door to personalized treatment options that can extend survival and or positively contribute to your overall wellbeing.

If you have a lung cancer diagnosis, discuss EGFR-mutation testing with your healthcare team right away. You can also connect with our clinical team and ask them any questions about EGFR testing via the Ask Outcomes4Me portal in our app.

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