Combination Treatment Could Extend Survival Time for Lung Cancer Patients

Combining an immunotherapy drug with chemotherapy nearly doubled the survival rate for some patients.

lung cancer
People in this town have a greater chance of getting cancer than anywhere else in the US. (Getty)

New research shows that combining an immunotherapy drug with chemotherapy nearly doubled the survival time of some lung cancer patients compared to patients treated with only chemotherapy, reports CNN. The study applies only to patients whose lung cancer does not begin in the squamous cell (this means surface lung cell layer). The patients also must lack certain genetic mutations. Worldwide, lung cancer causes 1.69 million deaths annually, and there are two types: small cell, which is less common, and non-small cell, which affects up to 85 percent of all lung cancer patients.

Dr. Leena Gandhi, the lead investigator of the study and director of the thoracic medical oncology program at NYU Langone Health’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, said that non-small cell lung cancer is so deadly because the existing chemotherapy drugs provide only limited survival benefits to patients. It gives them a matter of months, not years. It has been proven that immunotherapy, which harnesses the body’s immune system to attack tumors, improves survival in patients who have already had chemo. So Gandhi combined the use of standard chemotherapy with pembrolizumab, an immunotherapy drug.

According to CNN, for patients receiving the combined therapy, the chance of death or progression of their cancer was reduced by 48 percent. This is compared to the patients receiving only chemotherapy. About 65 percent of patients experienced severe side effects, the most common being nausea, anemia and fatigue.

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