Nonsmokers who develop lung cancer are more likely than their smoking counterparts to have a mutation in a gene called EGFR, a new study shows. The discovery could be good news for these nonsmokers because tumors that have this genetic defect—which fosters aberrant cell growth—appear highly responsive to a drug called gefitinib.
The findings have already triggered genetic screening to identify which patients might benefit from the drug. Roughly 10 percent of people who develop lung cancer have never smoked. And, in the new study, almost half of such patients showed a mutation in some part of EGFR.