From OHC, Specialists in the Treatment of Adult Cancers and Blood Disorders

November 29, 2021

Although lung cancer is most frequently attributed to smoking, OHC’s cancer specialists are seeing an increase in the incidence of lung cancer in “never smokers,” those who have never smoked or who have smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in their lifetimes. We do not yet have an explanation for this phenomenon, but a recent study revealed some hopeful news for this patient population—we already have targeted therapies at our disposal for 80-90 percent of never smokers with lung cancer.

“About 10-15 percent of lung cancer cases in the U.S. occur in those who have never smoked, and 60 percent of these cases are in women,” said OHC medical oncologist and hematologist, Jayadev Mettu, MD. A recent study conducted by a team from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis revealed that tumors in never smokers are vastly different than those in smokers. Specifically, the study analyzed adenocarcinoma tumors (the most common primary lung cancer in the U.S.) in 160 patients with no smoking history. Most of these tumors had driver mutations (changes) that caused them to grow, and these tumors could be effectively treated with drugs already approved by the FDA.

“Driver mutations are variations in a person’s DNA that give a cancer cell significant growth advantage,” said Dr. Mettu. “Only about half of the tumors in smokers have driver mutations. More research is required to determine when these mutations occur as only seven percent of the never smokers in the study had mutations at birth.”

“Two key takeaways from the study results are that we already have excellent precision therapies available to successfully treat lung cancer in never smokers, and we need to obtain tumor biopsies with enough genetic material to identify treatable mutations,” noted Dr. Mettu.

OHC medical oncologist and hematologist Suzanne M. Partridge, MD, provided a thorough explanation of precision therapies and genomic testing in her recent blog found here: At birth, most of our cells have a complete copy of our genetic information, our genome. Genes are comprised of DNA consisting of the instructions for our growth and development. All cancers are caused by genetic mutations. Cells with too many mutations can continue to grow and divide resulting in cancer. Genomic technology enables doctors to look at the genetic material of a tumor biopsy (tissue sample), determine its molecular profile, and select a precision therapy that specifically targets that profile.

Because lung cancer is becoming increasingly personalized with treatments tailored to the unique cellular characteristics of tumors, OHC is participating in the MYLUNG study. This is an observational study to help us determine how to best leverage molecular testing and treatment assignment for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). If you are over the age of 18 and have been diagnosed with NSCLC, you can make a difference by enrolling in this research, which will not affect your current treatment. For more information on lung cancer and the MYLUNG study, or to request a second opinion, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit

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