Immune Therapy Improves Lung Cancer Patients' Survival

For non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer patients, median survival with chemotherapy alone is approximately 11 or 12 months, said Jorge Gomez, MD, volunteer spokesperson for the American Lung Association and medical oncologist and director of thoracic oncology at New York City-based Mount Sinai Hospital, who was not involved in the study.

"Lung cancer is the greatest cause of cancer death worldwide and for most patients with newly diagnosed advanced NSCLC, chemotherapy has always been the standard", Matthew Hellmann, M.D., assistant attending at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said in a press release. In plain terms, what that means is that Keytruda combined with chemo cut the risk of lung cancer patients dying in half (we won't know specifically how much longer it helped them live until later).

The other shows patients who were given Opdivo were more likely to be cancer-free after a year.

Unlike traditional treatment, immunotherapies encourage the body's natural defences to target and destroy cancer cells, new research has revealed.

The studies proving immunotherapy as potent treatment for lung cancer could not have come any sooner. The findings of the study revealed that when Keytruda was administered alongside standard chemotherapy, the risk of death or having the cancer become worse was cut in half compared to chemotherapy alone after nearly a year.

In both studies, positive results were not dependent on cancer cell's levels of PD-L1, a marker of inflammation that has been commonly used with drugs like Keytruda and Opdivo to help predict patient responses, with higher PD-L1 levels believed to lead to greater efficacy. It can be given for up to 24 months for those without disease progression, Merck said. "I only treat lung cancer and I've been doing that for about 20 years".

Rash, diarrhea and anemia were the most common grade 3 or 4 side effects on the combination arm, each affecting less than 2 percent of patients.

Teams are now setting out to trial the method on patients with blood, colon and ovarian cancers in what could be the start of a fundamental shift in treatment of the disease.

They found the strategy was not only safe, but that 45pc of the patients responded so well there was little evidence of the cancer remaining upon follow-up examinations.

The study participants were divided into two groups: one group received only the chemotherapy drug, while the other was administered an additional 200 mg of pembrolizumab every three weeks, for the duration of four treatment cycles.

In fact, the results of the studies on the effect of immunotherapy against lung cancer are so significant that all lung cancer patients should be given this option first, according to lung cancer specialist Dr. Roy Herbst from the Yale Cancer Center.

"It's already been 21 months", said Gomez. "Now, not everybody benefits unfortunately, but some of the people who benefit seem to benefit in a way we've never seen".


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