2021 Annual Report: After Four Decades, a Breakthrough for Lung Cancer

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, 2021 Annual Report

The 2021 Annual Report from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center highlights a significant breakthrough in lung cancer treatment after four decades of research. The report focuses on the story of Karen Milich, a patient who had advanced lung cancer and experienced remarkable results with an experimental drug called AMG 510, now known as sotorasib (Lumakras™). This drug targets a cancer-causing protein resulting from a mutation in the KRAS gene, a discovery dating back to 1982. Despite previous roadblocks due to the protein’s structure, sotorasib represents a groundbreaking advancement in cancer science.

Dr. Bob Li, Co-Director of the Thoracic Liquid Biopsy Program at MSK, played a key role in Karen’s treatment and the clinical trial that led to the FDA approval of sotorasib for a subset of lung cancer patients. The development of sotorasib involved years of research at MSK, particularly in the lab of physician-scientist Neal Rosen. The drug specifically targets the KRAS-G12C mutation in lung cancers, offering hope to patients who have exhausted other treatment options. Follow-up data presented at a cancer research conference indicated significant survival rates even after two years for patients with advanced disease.

For patients who develop resistance to sotorasib, other strategies are being explored, including combination therapies to combat cancers driven by KRAS-G12C. Drs. Lito and Li have published potential approaches to overcome resistance mechanisms and are conducting clinical trials to enhance the effectiveness of treatments. MSK’s unique approach combines laboratory and clinical research to understand drug mechanisms and optimize administration methods. The success story of Karen Milich underscores the impact of this milestone in cancer treatment, emphasizing the importance of continued research and innovation in the field.

Karen’s journey, from the initial diagnosis to the FDA-approved treatment and subsequent surgery to remove a stubborn tumor, showcases the multidisciplinary approach at MSK that integrates patient care, scientific research, and education. The collaboration between researchers, clinicians, and patients like Karen reflects the dedication and commitment of MSK in advancing cancer care and improving outcomes for individuals battling the disease. With ongoing research and clinical trials, MSK continues to lead in personalized medicine and targeted therapies, providing hope and transformational breakthroughs for cancer patients.

For more information, please read the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center annual report.