Remote Participation Enables Patients with ALK-Positive Lung Cancer from Across the Country to Participate in New Study of Treatment Resistance

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Julia Spiess
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Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute study applies next-generation sequencing of blood plasma to identify tumor mutations that cause treatment resistance in patients with rare lung cancer

SAN CARLOS, CA (January 11, 2019) — The Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute (ALCMI), a patient-founded not-for-profit global research consortium, and researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are launching a novel nationwide study to understand why treatment resistance develops in a specific group of lung cancer patients.

The Study of Plasma Next Generation Sequencing for Remote Assessment, Characterization, Evaluation of Patients with ALK Drug Resistance [SPACEWALK] uses the latest gene-sequencing technology on blood plasma of patients with a rare form of lung cancer. This type of lung cancer is defined by a mutation in a gene called anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), which is present in about 5 percent of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Although ALK-positive lung cancer makes up only a small percentage of all lung cancers, with more than 234,000 new cases of lung cancer expected in 2018, it is likely that up to 10,000 of those will be ALK-positive.

Most, but not all, patients with ALK-positive lung cancers benefit from targeted treatment with oral therapies directed at ALK. There are now five FDA-approved ALK inhibitors. Treatment can work for months or years before resistance develops and lung cancer begins growing again. Resistance can be caused by new mutations in the ALK gene, and some of these resistance mutations can be effectively targeted by switching to another ALK inhibitor. The SPACEWALK study seeks to better understand the molecular causes of drug resistance to help doctors determine if switching to a different ALK inhibitor could prove beneficial.

“I’m sure you can imagine how hard it is on patients and families to hear that a treatment has stopped working,” said Gina Hollenbeck, a stage IV cancer survivor. Hollenbeck is the president of ALK Positive, an international support group of patients with ALK-positive lung cancer and their caregivers who take an active role in raising awareness of research opportunities. “We’re very excited to see a nationwide study that can expand our understanding of treatment resistance and how to overcome it.”

Advances in gene-sequencing now allow doctors to understand a tumor’s genetic composition from a sample of a patient’s blood, sometimes called a “liquid biopsy.” In the past, genomic analysis required patients to undergo an invasive biopsy to collect tumor tissue for testing. With a liquid biopsy, doctors can analyze tumor DNA shed into the bloodstream, which means patients only need to go through a simple blood test. By using liquid biopsies, with blood samples shipped for analysis, the study enables patients across the country to participate. A study open to patients throughout the U.S. is especially important in conducting a meaningful study of uncommon conditions.

“As we gain more treatment options for ALK-positive lung cancer, we now need better diagnostic tools to help us choose the best treatment for each patient,” said Geoffrey R. Oxnard, M.D., the study’s principal investigator and a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who specializes in research and treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. “We are so excited to offer a research study across the U.S. that both allows these patients to participate in research toward understanding drug resistance, while also giving them a test result that could help guide them to a new treatment option.”

“These are exciting times in lung cancer research,” said Bonnie J. Addario, 14-year lung cancer survivor and ALCMI founder. “Learning more about the genetic composition of cancer tumors can unlock doors to new and better treatments. We’re pleased to play a part in advancing this promising path toward turning lung cancer into a well-managed condition.”

To learn more about this study visit https://www.alcmi.net/SPACEWALK.

About the Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute
The Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute (ALCMI, voiced as “Alchemy”), founded in 2008 as a 501c(3) non-profit organization by lung cancer survivor Bonnie J Addario, is a patient-centric, international research consortium driving research otherwise not possible. Working in tandem with its “partner” foundation, the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF), ALCMI powers collaborative initiatives in genetic (molecular) testing, therapeutic discoveries, targeted treatments and early detection. ALCMI overcomes barriers to collaboration via a world-class team of investigators from 26 member institutions in the USA, UK, and Europe. ALCMI combines scientific expertise found at leading academic institutions with patient access through its network of community cancer centers to accelerate research.