Lung Cancer Patients Will Gain Extra Years Of Life Through Immunotherapy

Grant Boone
April 18, 2018

According to the study, of the 692 patients that took part in the trial, those that received a combination of the Swiss drug maker's cancer immunotherapy Tecentriq with one of its other cancer drugs, Avastin, along with carboplatin and paclitaxe had a median progression-free survival of 8.3 months, while the group in the trial that received Avastin and the chemotherapy without the immunotherapy had a median of about 6.8 months. Of the two types of lung cancer, small cell lung cancer is less common than non-small cell lung cancer, which affects up to 85% of all lung cancer patients.

For the study, a team of researchers treated 20 cancer patients with one of these drugs. He said that tumor cells were like bags of hidden proteins that, if exposed, the immune system could use as targets to find and attack cancer. Worldwide, lung cancer causes 1.69 million deaths annually.

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.

In both studies, the 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.

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. The combination treatment is a significant improvement, she said.

The differences would likely have been more pronounced, but many patients in the chemotherapy group were given Keytruda or a similar drug once their disease progressed.

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Lung cancer may have just met a new standard of care.

The reason non-small cell lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death is because the existing chemotherapy drugs provide only limited survival benefits for patients, Dr. Gandhi said. A year and a half after treatment, the disease had returned in three-quarters of patients with the new treatment.

The study, which tested treatment effectiveness and side effects, included 616 patients at 118 medical facilities across the world. "Now, not everybody benefits unfortunately, but some of the people who benefit seem to benefit in a way we've never seen".

The study, which was published online April 16 in The New England Journal of Medicine, was led by Dr. Leena Gandhi, director of the Thoracic Medical Oncology Program at Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Health. "We have patients on these immunotherapies alive more than eight years".

Experts agree that this impressive discovery might work on all lung cancer patients, as they should receive immunotherapy before undergoing surgery. Recurrence-free survival at 18 months was 73 percent, and the median recurrence-free survival had not been reached at the time of data analysis.

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