Lung Cancer Treatment Today: Earlier and More Precise

The science of lung cancer is progressing rapidly and treatments that may have seemed “futuristic” just 10 years ago are becoming standards of care. With this in mind, we spoke with AstraZeneca oncology employees to ask: what are some of the most exciting innovations that have come to fruition and what does the future have in store?

The common threads are clear: innovative treatment is reaching patients earlier and personalized medicine is here for the long haul.

Treating lung cancer earlier

Shawna Cullen, PhD, Lead, Immuno-Oncology, US Medical Affairs

“Like many other illnesses, the earlier we can treat lung cancer, the better. Lung cancer often goes undiscovered until it reaches a late stage, when it’s harder to treat due to metastasis. Our scientists are working to bring innovative Immuno-Oncology medicines to patients who need them most – often those with late-stage disease – but also aiming to introduce them as early as possible in the treatment paradigm to increase the chances of a cure. We strive towards this ‘curative intent’ with the goal of one day eliminating cancer as a cause of death.”

The future of personalized medicine

Jose Borbolla-Escoboza, MD, Lung Cancer Franchise Head, Medical

“By promoting personalized, precise approaches to care and supporting the use of companion diagnostic testing to identify patients who may respond best to a targeted therapy, AstraZeneca is at the exciting forefront of personalized medicine. An impressive 80% of products in our oncology pipeline include a companion diagnostic and we expect nearly half of our product launches to include a companion diagnostic by 2020. I believe that personalized medicine is here to stay and will continue to evolve in the future.”

Identifying treatable genetic mutations

Praveen Akkinepally, US Commercial Lead – Lung Cancer Franchise

“Science has come a long way since we first came to understand targetable mutations in cancers. Twenty years ago, we didn’t fully understand how EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) impacted cancer growth, but today EGFR testing is an established part of standard oncology practice. At AstraZeneca, we have a history of leadership in this space with our innovative treatment options and are continuing to pioneer effective precision medicines that target molecular mutations in tumor cells. With our robust late-stage clinical trial program, we are studying new medicines and new indications that have the potential to change the standard of care for non-small cell lung cancer across all stages of disease and lines of therapy.”

Accepting Immuno-Oncology as standard of care, where proven effective

Jane Chung, Franchise Head, Immuno-Oncology

“The introduction of IO anti-PD-L1 and anti-PD-1 antibodies has been one of the most exciting developments in lung cancer over the last few years – for patients, their loved ones, doctors and research communities alike. This area of oncology is rapidly growing and shifting, with new data reading out at incredible speed. In bringing these new therapies to market, we need to do all we can to support physicians and patients in better understanding IO treatment and how new therapies can quickly impact the standard of care, particularly in disease areas with limited treatment options and where little-to-no progress has been made until now. I think it will also be more and more critical to evaluate new data for differentiation, highlighting efficacy and safety profiles for specific medicines, instead of the class as a whole, to ensure that treatment decisions have the best chance of benefiting patients.

The immune system’s role in cancer treatment

Ronald Herbst, Vice President, Oncology Research & Development, MedImmune

 “Our in-depth knowledge of the immune system combined with expertise in protein engineering have allowed us to innovate in cancer research. We recognize how powerful the immune system can be in the fight against cancer.”


Each individual voice is critical, but it is together, as a community, that we have made incredible progress toward understanding how to treat lung cancer effectively. And with new developments in lung cancer coming to light each day, one thing is clear: the future is bright.


US-19921 Last Updated 4/18