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Biomarkers and lungcancer

Biomarkers: The key to transforming lung cancer care

In the Netherlands, lung cancer is the third most common cancer with 14,176 new cases diagnosed in 2019.1 It is the main cause of cancer-related deaths (10,233 deaths in 2019)1.

Lung cancer is not "one disease": there are different types and each type of lung cancer is different. It is important to know exactly what type of lung cancer it is because to gain insights into the course of the disease and its treatment.

In order to predict whether a patient will benefit from a specific treatment, biomarker tests must be performed.

What are biomarkers?

Biomarkers are markers in cells or in the body that say something about the behavior and type of cancer. Biomarkers are used to analyze the type of cancer and which treatment has the best chance of succeeding. Thus, the use of biomarkers increases the chances of successful treatment.

What is biomarker testing in lung cancer and why is biomarker testing important?

Biomarker testing is a group of laboratory-based tests that look for naturally occurring molecules, in samples of a patient’s blood, bodily fluids or tissues.2 It tests for the occurrence of known mutations. The test results are given to clinicians so they can plan the best care for their patients. In lung cancer, biomarkers are often driver mutations which are genetic alterations that cause cells to grow out of control. Common driver mutations in lung cancer are: KRAS, EGFR, BRAF, ALK, MET, ROS-1, NTRK3

For most patients newly diagnosed with lung cancer biomarker testing is recommended. It is important to know the biomarker status to identify and decide on the most appropriate treatment.


1Longkanker Nederland. Statistieken. Available at: https://www.longkankernederland.nl/longkanker/statistieken, Accessed July 2021
2LunGevity Foundation. Biomarker Testing. Available at: https://lungevity.org/for-patients-caregivers/lung-cancer-101/diagnosing-lung-cancer/biomarker-testing#:~:text=Biomarker%20testing%20(also%20known%20as,PD%2DL1%20protein%20expression%20level. Accessed January 2021.
3ESMO. Metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Ann Oncol 2018 [Updated September 2020]; 29 (Suppl 4): iv192–iv237. Available from: https://www.esmo.org/guidelines/lung-and-chest-tumours/clinical-practice-living-guidelines-metastatic-non-small-cell-lung-cancer