Immunotherapy shows promise in combating lung cancer

Avatar By Joseph Scalise | 2 years ago

Immune-based therapy could help create one of the best lung cancer treatments to date, according to new research across three studies simultaneously published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Though many immunotherapy treatments have been approved to treat certain tumor types, they have not yet been used to fight lung cancer. In the new research, scientists from various U.S. universities found that immune-based technology may be able to weaken lung tumors and increase overall survivability.

Currently, more than half lung cancer survivors see it return after treatment. As a result, methods like chemotherapy only increase survival chances by about 5 percent. Scientists hope the newly researched immunotherapy could help raise that percentage without exposing patients to any toxic chemicals. 

In one of the studies, researchers mixed two checkpoint inhibitor drugs — which target proteins to help expose tumors to the body’s immune system — to see if the concoction could keep tumors from growing better than standard chemotherapy treatments in those with advanced non small cell lung cancer. After testing 300 people, they found immunotherapy to be 42 percent more effective than chemotherapy.

Scientists also found that combining chemotherapy with another immune-based checkpoint inhibitor known as pembrolizumab (Keytruda) helped patients live nearly four months longer on average than those treated with only chemotherapy.

“The magnitude of benefit was unexpected and great to see,” said co-author of one study Leena Gandhi, associate professor of medicine at New York University, according to Yahoo News.


Though lung cancer treatments typically rely on chemotherapy, doctors are steadily trending towards other solutions as time goes on. This new proposal is one such way, and it could largely increase survival rates in the coming years. They could also alter the way lung cancer is treated down the line.

“The Holy Grail is to have a relatively non-toxic therapy that could potentially use the body’s own immune system to prevent recurrence,” said co-author of one study Patrick Forde, assistant professor of oncology and associate member of the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Johns Hopkins University.