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Understanding the Disease

Genetic Mutation Differences of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Understanding the genetic mutation differences of NSCLC

Advances in genetic research have revealed that non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is not a single disease, but rather many types of cancer with specific genetic differences that can cause cancer cells to grow and multiply.

The type of NSCLC can be based on the presence or absence of certain genetic changes within the lung cells. These genetic changes are called gene mutations. Gene mutations can then contribute to the growth of tumors. Approximately 2% of patients with metastatic (has spread to other parts of the body) NSCLC have an abnormal BRAF gene mutation (V600E), which drives cancer cells to grow and spread out of control.

The role of molecular testing for NSCLC

Molecular (or biomarker) testing is now used to look at genetic differences among lung cancers. This kind of testing can be performed on a tissue sample (biopsy) of abnormal cells from a tumor, which can identify if it contains a specific genetic change called a “gene mutation.” Gene mutations can then contribute to the growth of tumors. The type of NSCLC can be based on the presence or absence of certain gene mutations within the lung cells.

Your gene mutation status can help in choosing appropriate treatment

Lung cancer medicines that target the specific differences in gene mutations have been developed. For example, you or your loved one was tested with a biopsy (or tissue sample) of the cells to see if it contained a BRAF V600E mutation, which may be helpful when selecting a treatment.

When health care providers get the test results and know for sure that the NSCLC tumor has an abnormal BRAF gene, they specifically call it BRAF V600E NSCLC.