Molecular testing in stage I-III non-small cell lung cancer: Approaches and challenges

Lung Cancer. 2021 Dec:162:42-53. doi: 10.1016/j.lungcan.2021.09.003. Epub 2021 Sep 15.


Precision medicine in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a rapidly evolving area, with the development of targeted therapies for advanced disease and concomitant molecular testing to inform clinical decision-making. In contrast, routine molecular testing in stage I-III disease has not been required, where standard of care comprises surgery with or without adjuvant or neoadjuvant chemotherapy, or concurrent chemoradiotherapy for unresectable stage III disease, without the integration of targeted therapy. However, the phase 3 ADAURA trial has recently shown that the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI), osimertinib, reduces the risk of disease recurrence by 80% versus placebo in the adjuvant setting for patients with stage IB-IIIA EGFR mutation-positive NSCLC following complete tumor resection with or without adjuvant chemotherapy, according to physician and patient choice. Treatment with adjuvant osimertinib requires selection of patients based on the presence of an EGFR-TKI sensitizing mutation. Other targeted agents are currently being evaluated in the adjuvant and neoadjuvant settings. Approval of at least some of these other agents is highly likely in the coming years, bringing with it in parallel, a requirement for comprehensive molecular testing for stage I-III disease. In this review, we consider the implications of integrating molecular testing into practice when managing patients with stage I-III non-squamous NSCLC. We discuss best practices, approaches and challenges from pathology, surgical and oncology perspectives.

Keywords: Adjuvant therapy; Biomarker; Carcinoma, non-small cell; ErbB receptors; Molecular diagnostic techniques; Molecular targeted therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung* / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung* / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung* / therapy
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Lung Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • ErbB Receptors