First-Line Treatment Approved for Stage IV Colorectal Cancer

There is new first-line treatment (standard of care to start treatment) giving as many as 60% of the stage IV colorectal cancer patients more options for treatment.

Previously, most stage IV patients undergoing chemotherapy would be recommended to go on FOLFOX and bevacizumab (Avastin). Patients would receive this first set of drugs (called first-line) and if the cancer continued to grow, then other treatment options would be explored.

Recently, the FDA approved an additional drug to be used as a first-line option for some stage IV patients. But this is for a specific set of patients based on their tumor gene type, known as biomarker.

The new targeted therapy panitumumab (Vectibix) can now be used in patients with non-mutated KRAS or NRAS genes. Cetuximab (Erbitux) is another targeted therapy that is approved for this use.

Explaining Targeted Therapies, KRAS and NRAS

Targeted therapies are drugs that do exactly that – target certain cells in the body. They work together with your body’s circulatory system to target things like tumors, receptors and other elements in your blood cells causing cancer to grow.

Based on cutting-edge research, we know that patients with mutations in certain genes of the tumor, also called biomarkers (KRAS & NRAS), do not respond to these targeted therapies.

That means that patients with non-mutated genes can receive these targeted therapies, which prove to be more effective when treating cancer. The more we can target medicine to a patient’s genetic makeup, the more effective the treatment.

What to do now?

Seeing targeted therapies become first-line options for those without a mutated KRAS or NRAS gene is good news. If you’ve been diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer, you need tested for these gene mutations if you’ve not done so yet. This can likely be done with tissue or tumor block that has already been taken during a biopsy or surgery.

If your test concludes you do NOT have a mutation (also referred to as KRAS wild-type), you may be a candidate for a targeted therapy as your first treatment option. (Around 60% of patients do NOT have a mutated KRAS gene.)

If you’re a stage IV colorectal cancer patient, talk with your doctor if you’ve not been tested for biomarkers. Once you know if you carry a biomarker mutation, you can work with your doctor to determine the best treatment option for you. It is important to remember, the biomarker status will determine if this new first line therapy will work for you!


WATCH: Dr. John Marshall explains Biomarkers

DOWNLOAD: Fact Sheet about Biomarkers

ASK: Contact our Resource Line for more information. 

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