Anyone that has received a diagnosis of lung cancer knows just how frightening it can be, but new immunotherapy treatments have been developed that are improving outcomes. With these treatments, there is renewed hope for a longer life and better quality of life after diagnosis.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer for both men and women. In fact, 14% of all newly diagnosed cancers are lung cancer. That means around 224,3990 Americans will develop lung cancer in 2016 and about 158,080 will die from lung cancer in the same year. Statistics show that one out of four deaths resulting from cancer is from lung cancer. Worldwide, lung cancer is the most common cancer with 1.8 million new cases each year and 1.6 million deaths per year.
In addition, lung cancer occurs most often in older adults. Of those diagnosed with lung cancer, two out of three are 65 or older with the average age of diagnosis being 70.
Understanding Lung Cancer Immunotherapy
Proposed as an alternative to chemotherapy, some lung cancer patients are being treated fro their disease with immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a treatment that boosts your body’s natural defenses. The therapy may use either manmade substances or substances that your body produces naturally. Either way, its purpose is to repair or improve your immune system function.
Immunotherapy can help in several ways. This includes slowing or even stopping the growth of cancer cells, stopping the cancer from spreading to other areas of the body and working with your immune system to help destroy cancer cells. (www.cancer.net)
However, there are side effects that come with this type of treatment for lung cancer. These can include the following:
• Skin Rash
• Joint Pain
New Drugs on the Horizon In the Hope of Improving Lung Cancer Outcomes
A new drug called Keytruda, developed by Merck & Co., has been quite promising in clinical trials and will be unveiled at the European Society for Medical Oncology in 2016. This drug was able to reduce the risk of cancer progression or death by 50%. Patients who were given the medicine found that it was 10.3 months before there was a progression in their cancer as compared to 6 months with chemotherapy.
It is important to not confuse Keytruda and the Merck & Co. clinical trials with the failed competing therapy drug, Opdivo developed by Bristol-Myers.
During the medical trial, Merck & Co. focused on patients whose tumors expressed PD-L1 at least 50% of the time. This group could comprise as much as 25% of newly-diagnosed lung cancer patients.
In addition, this new drug gives a lung cancer patient alternatives to chemotherapy and with better outcomes, as well. This drug would give patients a treatment option with the ability to shrink lung tumors without the toxicity of chemotherapy.
There is no getting around the fact that lung cancer is a serious and deadly disease that affects millions around the world, but there are almost half a million lung cancer survivors currently living in the United States, and with these new treatments, that number is only going to increase.
What are your thoughts on immunotherapy? Do you know someone who has received it as a treatment for cancer? Would you be willing to try a newer therapy to beat cancer? Let us know in the comments below.