Immunotherapy shows lung cancer promise

Immunotherapy shows lung cancer promise

Immunotherapy shows lung cancer promise

One study, conducted by scientists at New York University, involved more than 600 patients with advanced lung cancer.

Two promising new studies suggest combining Immune Therapy drugs with chemotherapy may improve survival.

The median time until cancer worsened was about 7 months on the immunotherapy drugs versus 5.5 months for chemo. The drugs unleash the patients own immune system to kill malignant cells.

Rates of serious side effects were similar, but twice as many in the Keytruda group dropped out because of them.

Dr. Jorge Gomez, a volunteer spokesperson for the American Lung Association and a medical oncologist and director of thoracic oncology at Mount Sinai Hospital in NY, explained that "about 220,000 patients are diagnosed with lung cancer a year in the United States". Worldwide, lung cancer causes 1.69 million deaths annually.

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Another study found that an immunotherapy combo - the Bristol-Myers Squibb drugs Opdivo and Yervoy - worked better than chemo for delaying the time until cancer worsened in advanced lung cancer patients whose tumors have many gene flaws, as almost half do.

Keytruda, Yervoy and Opdivo are called checkpoint inhibitors. The chemotherapy was a drug called pemetrexed, plus either carboplatin or cisplatin. "A matter of months, not years", she said. It is already approved as a first-line treatment for this disease, so it should be covered by health insurers.

Results were discussed Monday at an American Association for Cancer Research conference in Chicago and published by the New England Journal of Medicine. "Chemotherapy has limitations. Immunotherapy has the ability to cure". "I only treat lung cancer and I've been doing that for about 20 years".

Gandhi wondered, Would using immunotherapy earlier in treatment, alongside chemotherapy, do more for patients?

"Today is a big day in lung cancer", Forde said.

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Most patients stay on the drugs for two years, he said.

Herbst offered several theories about why chemotherapy and immunotherapy could work well together.

The hope is that such early treatment, when the patient is still quite healthy, will train their immune system to keep fighting off the cancer long-term, Forde said. By killing some tumor cells, chemotherapy could pop open the bags, release the contents and help immune cells — unleashed by the checkpoint drugs — to identify their prey.

And for those with neither a lot of mutations nor a lot of immune cells, chemotherapy plus Keytruda seems to be the best choice, he said.

The study, a phase III clinical trial testing treatment effectiveness and side effects, included 616 patients at 118 medical facilities around the globe.

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