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Metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) unfortunately remains a lethal disease, despite recent genetic characterization of subclasses of NSCLC, mainly adenocarcinoma, which has led to the development of targeted therapies that improve progression-free survival (PFS). Ultimately, however, patients fatally relapse. In this review we will focus on the search to improve survival for NSCLC patients deemed to be pan-negative for the common driver alterations susceptible to targeted therapy, above all those with EGFR mutations or ALK, ROS or RET translocations. Other uncommon driver mutations such as HER2 and BRAF mutations should be tested in order to rule out targeted treatment before assigning patients to chemotherapy. Chemotherapy yields short lived response with median survival still less than one year. Customized chemotherapy represents one way to attempt to prolong survival, although to date no prospective randomized customized studies have reported sufficient evidence to support this. In one attempt to demonstrate the role of tailoring chemotherapy, the Spanish Lung Cancer Group (SLCG) phase II customized chemotherapy trial (NCT00883480) showed that RAP80, a component of the BRCA1-A complex, influenced outcome in patients with low BRCA1 expression treated with cisplatin/gemcitabine, and in patients with intermediate/high BRCA1 levels receiving cisplatin/docetaxel or docetaxel alone. We are currently performing a prospective, randomized phase III trial comparing non-customized cisplatin/docetaxel with customized therapy in metastatic NSCLC patients (NCT00617656/GECP-BREC) and a parallel phase II study (ChiCTR-TRC-12001860) is being carried out in China (BREC-China) under the auspices of the SLCG.

Original publication




Journal article


Translational lung cancer research

Publication Date





180 - 188


Comprehensive Cancer Centre of Drum Tower Hospital, Medical School of Nanjing University, Nanjing 210008, China ;