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Studies find new ways to use immune-boosting lung cancer drugs

17 April 2018

A total of 781,000 patients are diagnosed with lung cancer every year, giving it the highest incidence rate among China's malignant tumours, according to the National Cancer Center (NCC).

A study involving people with advanced stage lung cancer found it nearly doubled their survival time, while another revealed that immunotherapy treatment shrank tumours before surgery.

Other studies presented at the meeting also highlighted advances in immunotherapy against lung cancer, but were at earlier points in the research and less likely to bring about immediate changes in medical practice.

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Patients undergoing the new type of treatment - which harnesses the immune system so it targets and destroys only cancer cells - typically lived longer with fewer reports of the cancer returning.

"The data show that treatment with pembrolizumab and chemotherapy together is more effective than chemotherapy alone", said lead investigator Leena Gandhi, director of the thoracic medical oncology program at Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Health. Chemotherapy has limitations. Immunotherapy has the ability to cure. "And the differences were not small". The most common side effects were nausea, anemia and fatigue and in both groups about 65% of patients experienced severe side effects. "We have patients on these immunotherapies alive more than eight years". The median overall survival was 11.3 months in those who did not receive immunotherapy, whereas survival in the immunotherapy group was longer and the median has not yet been reached. "The differences are big enough now that you know it's going to be a very big number and it's important to get this information to people so they can start using this regimen". I lead the Yale lung team. The findings could prompt doctors to use immunotherapy as a first line of treatment for lung cancer, despite a hefty price tag of $13,000 per month.

Studies find new ways to use immune-boosting lung cancer drugs