Increasingly, basic research is being translated into clinical benefits for patients. Recent studies have shed more light on the clinical use of targeted therapies such as tyrosine kinase and angiogenesis inhibitors, and predictive factors for their clinical benefit and their role in different clinical settings are now being elucidated. New insights into the basic biology of lung cancer hold translational promise in risk assessment, early detection, molecular staging, treatment response prediction and novel therapies. New targeted agents directed at apoptotic and developmental pathways have the potential to exploit newly discovered vulnerabilities in the basic machinery of cancer. In addition, exploration of the cancer stem cell phenomenon in lung cancer may generate new approaches to prevent recurrence in surgically respectable lung cancer, and for the long-term control of extensive disease. Molecular profiling may also allow for highly individualized prognostic, predictive and therapeutic treatment plans tailored for each patient based on the molecular diagnostic profile of their tumour. Advances in genetic susceptibility, early detection and individualized therapy based on each tumour's unique biological properties all hold promise for the future management of lung cancer.