Immune therapy key to extending lung cancer patients' lives

Research suggests that many more lung cancer patients may benefit from treatments that boost the immune system

Research suggests that many more lung cancer patients may benefit from treatments that boost the immune system

Immunotherapy, which has had much of its success against less common forms of cancer, was discovered to greatly improve the survival rates for patients who are newly diagnosed with the most common form of lung cancer.

Lung cancer patients are to be given immunotherapy as the first line of treatment after clinical trials found that it boosted the immune system's ability to attack tumours.

The drug called Keytruda, or pembrolizumab, is already prescribed to a group of patients who have a type of malignancy called non-small cell lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death globally, causing 1.7 million deaths a year.

All of these immune therapy treatments worked for only about half of patients, but that's far better than chemo has done in the past.

But patients in the immunotherapy group had more kidney problems, more immune-related adverse events and were more likely to stop treatment because of side effects. Combinations of immunotherapy drugs have even helped wean other lung cancer patients from the more unsafe but standard chemotherapy treatments, extending their life spans.




So-called tumor mutational burden can be measured with tests that are already routinely done in many cancer centers, Hellmann said, so they should be readily accessible.

For non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer patients, median survival with chemotherapy alone is somewhere around 11 or 12 months, he said.

I have never seen progress move so fast. The New England Journal of Medicine has recently published these impressive new results in a study.

And the impact was also out there on biotech outfits with immunotherapies in studies. "I only treat lung cancer and I've been doing that for about 20 years". In the trial, researchers randomized patients with stage 4 or recurrent NSCLC who had not received prior treatment to receive either Opdivo monotherapy, Opdivo plus Yervoy or Opdivo plus platinum-doublet chemotherapy compared with chemotherapy alone. However, as in the latest study, the effects frequently don't persist for most patients. It is also possible, he said, that chemotherapy may kill some immune cells that interfere with the cancer-killing action of other parts of the immune system.

In addition to the Stand Up To Cancer - Cancer Research Institute Cancer Immunology Translational Research Grant, this study was supported by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and the International Immuno-Oncology Network, LUNGevity Foundation, the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer & Prevent Cancer, Lung Cancer Foundation of America, the MacMillan Foundation, ECOG-ACRIN, the National Institutes of Health, the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation, the Commonwealth Foundation, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Support Grant, and the Johns Hopkins University Cancer Center Support Grant.

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