Immune therapy scores major win against lung cancer

A treatment boosting the immune system drastically improved the survival in people newly diagnosed with lung cancer.

A new study showed that the odds of survival for people with the most common type of lung cancer can greatly improve if they are given a drug that activates the immune system in addition to the usual chemotherapy.

These findings are crucial and will lead to changes in medical practices with cancer experts now advising patients with this type of lung cancer to be provided with an immune-activating drug as early as possible.

The results are expected to set a new standard of care for about 70,000 patients each year in the United States whose lung cancer has already spread by the time it’s found.

“What it suggests is that chemotherapy alone is no longer a standard of care,” said Dr. Leena Gandhi, a leader of the study and director of the Thoracic Medical Oncology Program at the Perlmutter Cancer Center at New York University Langone Health.

So far, four immunotherapy drugs for cancer, better known as checkpoint inhibitors, have been approved. Those drugs are able to unleash the patient’s own immune system to kill malignant cells.

“I’ve been treating lung cancer for 25 years now, and I’ve never seen such a big paradigm shift as we’re seeing with immunotherapy,” said Dr. Roy Herbst, Chief of Medical Oncology at the Yale Cancer Center.

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