Immunotherapy Offers New Hope in Lung Cancer Treatment

While the figures associated with lung cancer remain rather grim, a new treatment is offering hope for some patients diagnosed with non-small cell tumors. Immunotherapy has shown such promise, in fact, that many clinicians are leading the charge for this therapy to be used as a first line option in place of harsher chemotherapy in particular cases.

Immunotherapy involves the use of drugs that are designed to stimulate the body’s own immune system into more effectively fighting off cancer. These drugs get the immune system to target cancer cells, which can slow their growth, shrink tumors and effectively kill off cells in some cases. New drugs developed for this purpose have been showing such strong results that doctors believe they should replace chemo as the first option for treatment in some cases. Aside from the positive results they are producing, immunotherapy drugs have the ability to reduce the likely side effects patients experience during treatment. Since the immune system can distinguish between healthy and diseased cells, patients tend to tolerate immunotherapy medications much more readily than toxic chemo drugs. The end result is not only a greater likelihood for improved treatment, but also higher quality of life during the battle against lung cancer.

Recent trials involving the use of immunotherapy drugs in lung cancer treatment did, in fact, show terribly positive outcomes. When put up against a chemotherapy treatment, a new immunotherapy drug produced median progression free survival rates of 10.3 months versus six for chemo. Overall survival was also dramatically improved when the immunotherapy drug was used in place of chemo. The rate at six months was 80 percent for the immunotherapy drug versus 72 percent for chemo. At the one-year point, the drug showed a 70 percent rate versus just under 55 percent for the chemo. The reduction in death risk was also highly positive, researchers found.

Although the trials showed very strong outcomes for immunotherapy, researchers have found that this course of action does work better in some cases versus others. The highest level of positive outcomes was witnessed in patients who presented with a particular biomarker. That finding has given rise to some clinicians calling for biomarker screening when early stage non-small cell lung cancer is diagnosed. Should the marker be present, immunotherapy may offer a great deal of hope for patients in improving prognosis while maintaining quality of life.

Lung cancer affects more than 222,000 Americans each year. Some 155,000 die from the disease. If this disease is suspected, people are strongly encouraged to seek medical attention. Early detection and treatment can lead to more positive outcomes.

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