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Lung Cancer Overview

Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death globally and in the U.S., causing 1.7 million deaths a year. In the U.S, it is expected to kill more than 154,000 people in 2018. A recent study has determined that immunotherapy can extend the life of lung cancer patients.

About Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is an advanced form of treatment that boosts the body’s immune system to fight off cancer cells. It does this through a variety of mechanisms: by boosting immune system activity, uncloaking tumor cells and with the use of engineered immune system proteins that very specifically target tumors. Depending on your particular condition, you may be eligible for this advanced and effective treatment, which is usually well tolerated with minimal side effects.

According to a major new study, if people with the most common type of lung cancer are given a new drug that activates the immune system along with chemotherapy, their odds of survival can greatly improve, and they may get years of extra life.

The study included 616 patients with advanced lung cancer, ages 34 to 84, from medical centers in 16 countries. The estimated survival at 12 months was 69.2 percent in the group that received immunotherapy, and 49.4 percent in those who did not.

Medical experts have indicated that the findings of the study should change the way doctors treat lung cancer by introducing immunotherapy as early as possible for patients with this form of the disease.

Immunotherapy has been making steady gains against a number of cancers by unleashing the patient’s own immune system to kill malignant cells. So far, four such drugs, called checkpoint inhibitors (such as Keytruda), have been approved. The Food and Drug Administration approved the Keytruda-chemo combination last year.

Limitations and Side Effects

It is important to be aware that although immunotherapy has been effective for many patients, not everyone benefits from immunotherapy. Also, although patients generally have fewer side effects from immunotherapy than from chemotherapy, the side effects of immunotherapy can still be serious. Specific side effects include:

  • Skin reactions similar to an allergic reaction
  • Inflammation of the gut and lungs
  • Problems with the endocrine (hormone) system
  • If you are interested in a lung cancer consultation, call Rio Bravo Cancer today at (661) 471-2663.