How close are we to customizing chemotherapy in early non-small cell lung cancer?

Ther Adv Med Oncol. 2011 Jul;3(4):185-205. doi: 10.1177/1758834011409973.


Although surgery is the only potentially curative treatment for early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), 5-year survival rates range from 77% for stage IA tumors to 23% in stage IIIA disease. Adjuvant chemotherapy has recently been established as a standard of care for resected stage II-III NSCLC, on the basis of large-scale clinical trials employing third-generation platinum-based regimens. As the overall absolute 5-year survival benefit from this approach does not exceed 5% and potential long-term complications are an issue of concern, the aim of customized adjuvant systemic treatment is to optimize the toxicity/benefit ratio, so that low-risk individuals are spared from unnecessary intervention, while avoiding undertreatment of high-risk patients, including those with stage I disease. Therefore, the application of reliable prognostic and predictive biomarkers would enable to identify appropriate patients for the most effective treatment.This is an overview of the data available on the most promising clinicopathological and molecular biomarkers that could affect adjuvant and neoadjuvant chemotherapy decisions for operable NSCLC in routine practice. Among the numerous candidate molecular biomarkers, only few gene-expression profiling signatures provide clinically relevant information warranting further validation. On the other hand, real-time quantitative polymerase-chain reaction strategy involving relatively small number of genes offers a practical alternative, with high cross-platform performance. Although data extrapolation from the metastatic setting should be cautious, the concept of personalized, pharmacogenomics-guided chemotherapy for early NSCLC seems feasible, and is currently being evaluated in randomized phase 2 and 3 trials. The mRNA and/or protein expression levels of excision repair cross-complementation group 1, ribonucleotide reductase M1 and breast cancer susceptibility gene 1 are among the most potential biomarkers for early disease, with stage-independent prognostic and predictive values, the clinical utility of which is being validated prospectively. Inter-assay discordance in determining the biomarker status and association with clinical outcomes is noteworthing.

Keywords: adjuvant therapy; biomarkers; individualized therapy; neoadjuvant therapy; non-small cell lung cancer.