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The cancer research community is moving forward in its efforts find more effective treatment for patients with lung cancer. Current clinical trials are taking innovative approaches to how therapies for both advanced and early-stage lung cancers are studied. The goal of each study is to improve access to promising drugs for patients with more efficient clinical trials processes.

These two trials include the Lung Cancer Master Protocol (Lung-MAP) trial and the Adjuvant Lung Cancer Enrichment Marker Identification and Sequencing Trials (ALCHEMIST). Lung-MAP is studying therapy for advanced lung cancer (squamous cell, specifically), and the ALCHEMIST trials are studying treatment in early-stage disease.[1], [2]

The Lung-MAP Trial

In Lung-MAP (, researchers with several public institutions, including the National Cancer Institute (NCI), are working with pharmaceutical companies to study treatment for advanced squamous cell lung cancer. Though only a fraction (about a quarter) of all lung cancer diagnoses as squamous cell, it’s an important area of research, as there are few treatment options for these patients.

Lung-MAP will evaluate several investigational treatments and match patients with the therapy most likely to benefit them. Participants will undergo genomic profiling—a type of testing that provides information about all the genes in an organism, including variation, gene expression, and the way genes interact with each other and the environment. The drugs studied in Lung-MAP are designed to target genomic alterations involved in the growth of cancer, and researchers will use genomic profiling to match patients with the therapy designed to target the particular genomic alterations that their cancer expresses.

One of the goals of Lung-MAP is that by directly matching patients to the therapy most promising for their particular disease, patients are more likely have access to promising treatment.

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As understanding of squamous cell lung cancer grows, researchers are increasingly aware that one squamous cell disease can be very different on a genomic level from the next. These distinct alterations might be most effectively treated with different targeted therapies. Lung-MAP includes five different therapy arms so that participants can be matched with the treatment most likely to work for them.

This more comprehensive approach marks a change in the typical clinical trial model for targeted therapies, in which separate studies for the same disease focus on particular genomic abnormalities and treatments. Potential participants are tested for that genomic biomarker (a molecule that is a sign of a normal or abnormal process or of a condition or disease), and only individuals who test positive are enrolled in the study. As a result, many patients are left out of each trial and—with multiple, separate trials—overall progress in treatment development is made less efficient.

In Lung-MAP, however, everyone who’s tested will be eligible for a therapy. And several treatments for advanced squamous cell lung cancer will be evaluated under one protocol in an effort to accelerate safe drug development.


[1] Lung-MAP Launches: First Precision Medicine Trial From National Clinical Trials Network [press release]. The National Cancer Institute. Available at: . Accessed December 19, 2014.

[2] The ALCHEMIST Lung Cancer Trials. The National Cancer Institute website. Available at: . Accessed December 19, 2014.

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