In 2021, Brittany Hawkins, a 36-year-old nonsmoker, received a diagnosis of stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer and given 3 months to live. A biomarker test at the Norton Cancer Institute in Louisville, Kentucky, revealed a mutation of the RET gene in the tumor, which enabled her medical team to treat her with a therapy that targeted the RET mutation. Biomarker testing has helped change the way advanced lung cancers are treated, Vamsidhar Velcheti, MD, director of the Thoracic Medical Oncology Program at NYU Langone Health’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, tells Healthline.
“We tend to realize that not all lung cancers are the same. If you understand the exact DNA fingerprint of the cancer, we can then actually tailor treatment according to the DNA changes in a patient’s cancer,” says Dr. Velcheti, also a professor in the Department of Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. “Biomarker testing offers the opportunity to personalize treatment based on the cancer’s inherent vulnerabilities.”
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