Doctors have successfully be using immunotherapy for decades. Immunotherapy treatments can treat a number of difference diseases including lung cancer. In this article, we look at the question, does immunotherapy cure lung cancer?
How Immunotherapy Works
Usually, immunotherapy treatments work by stimulating the patient’s own immune system to combat a disease. It’s very much similar to how the immune system fights off a virus or another foreign invader.
It has been proven to work against many different forms of cancers effectively. This includes lung, melanoma, colon, and kidney cancers.
Promising Immunotherapy Lung Cancer Research
Just recently, there has been a study that showed promising results for immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda®) combined with chemotherapy. The goal of this study is to see whether or not the dual approach is more effective than just chemotherapy. It was used for metastatic nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer or NSCLC.
The results are quite promising. The patients who underwent dual treatment lived longer than those who only received chemotherapy as treatment.
There is also more data suggesting that earlier introduction to immunotherapy might become the standard treatment in the near future. However, it is a little bit too early to declare victory right now.
Does Immunotherapy Cure Lung Cancer?
The immunotherapy options for today are not yet a cure for late-stage lung cancer. But it can give certain patients a little more time to spend with their family and friends.
Types of Immunotherapy For Cancer
There are two main types of immunotherapy for cancer. We’ll discuss both in detail below.
First is the checkpoint inhibitors. Stick with me for a minute here.
Imagine that your immune system is a car. Then the checkpoint would be the brakes. Just as a car brake helps keep you from an accident, checkpoint inhibitors prevent people from developing autoimmune diseases. These include Crohn’s disease, lupus, and other health conditions where the body attacks its own health tissues and organs.
There are different checkpoint inhibitor drugs that take the brakes off in a controlled way. This helps improve the patient’s immune system when it comes to responding to different diseases such as cancer.
Usually, these types of medications are administered intravenously. Doctors usually administer them every 2-3 weeks. It depends on which type of medication is in play.
In most cases, patients can tolerate the treatments well. However, some patients have the tendency to develop autoimmune side effects.
However, side effects only occur when there’s an immune attack on the normal tissues as a result of stimulation on the immune system. At any point of the treatment, the toxicities can have the tendency to affect almost every organ.
Still, the immune checkpoint inhibitors are some of the most promising advances when it comes to cancer treatment in the previous decades.
CAR-T Cell Therapy
The second type is the CAR-T cell therapy.
First, let’s talk about what T-cells are. These cells are the ones responsible for leading the fight against infections, and cancer cells. Some refer to these cells as the workhorses of the immune system.
Now, CAR-T or chimeric antigen receptor therapy is a treatment where medical experts draw blood from the patient. The blood is used to identify, isolate and remove the patient’s T-cells.
Next, doctors will modify the T-cells. They do this by adding a new component – the chimeric antigen receptor. This process allows the T-cells to recognize and combat certain cancers. After that, the T-cells are reintroduced to the patient’s blood. The goal is to eradicate the cancer using the modified T-cells.
This article is part of our series on Lung Cancer Treatments, Signs, Causes and Prevention.
Please check out the next topic in this series: What is mesothelioma lung cancer?