Yes, immunotherapy can help lung cancer patients live longer. But the devil is in the details as they say. How much would you risk both financially and personally in order to live longer?
Let me establish a foundation for this discussion. According to ASCO, Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Non-small cell lung cancer is the type of lung cancer that comprises 85% of that statistic. The five year survival rate for lung cancer depends largely on the stage upon diagnosis. For example, for people with stage early stage NSCLC, the 5-year survival rate is about 92%. When NSCLC has spread outside of the lungs, it can be difficult to treat successfully. The 5-year survival rate for stage IV NSCLC is around 1%.
Five year survival rates for lung cancer haven’t changed much in the past few decades. As I said above, the devil is in the details. Until immunotherapy was developed, the prognosis for lung cancer patients with advanced cancer wasn’t great.
The study below focused on people with advanced lung cancer. While there is now hope for advanced lung cancer patients, I read the study below and I think that information about how to reduce the risk of side effects from immunotherapy or integrative therapies to enhance the efficacy of the conventional chemotherapy regimens mentioned in the study are more important than ever.
I am a long-term cancer survivor and cancer coach. The PeopleBeatingCancer Lung Cancer Coaching program provides evidence-based therapies that can help that your oncologis may not talk about with you.
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“The odds of survival can greatly improve for people with the most common type of lung cancer if, along with the usual chemotherapy, they are also given a drug that activates the immune system, a major new study has shown.
The findings should change medical practice immediately, cancer experts say: Patients with this type of lung cancer should receive an immune-activating drug, also called immunotherapy, as early as possible after the diagnosis is made.
“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…
They cost more than $100,000 a year, can have serious side effects and help only some patients, generally fewer than half. But when the drugs work, responses can be long-lasting, and researchers are rushing to find ways to combine treatments to improve their effects and to determine which formulation is best for each patient…
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death globally, causing 1.7 million deaths a year. In the United States, it is expected to kill more than 154,000 people in 2018.
Patients in the study had an advanced stage of non-squamous non-small-cell lung cancer. The immune-activating drug was a checkpoint inhibitor called pembrolizumab, or Keytruda, made by Merck, which paid for the study. The chemotherapy was a drug called pemetrexed, plus either carboplatin or cisplatin…
“If you want to see long-term survival, you’ve got to give immunotherapy as soon as possible,” Dr. Herbst said. “Chemotherapy has limitations. Immunotherapy has the ability to cure. I lead the Yale lung team. We have patients on these immunotherapies alive more than eight years…”
Most patients stay on the drugs for two years, he said. One Yale patient who has survived for eight years took the drug for two years and has remained well ever since. Another had to stop because of side effects after only two or three months, but is still well two years later…
Dr. Gandhi’s study included 616 patients with advanced lung cancer, from medical centers in 16 countries. Their tumors lacked certain mutations that would have made them eligible for other, so-called “targeted” treatments. They were picked at random to receive either chemotherapy plus immunotherapy, or chemotherapy plus a placebo, with two thirds receiving the combination that included immunotherapy.
After a median follow-up of 10.5 months, those in the immunotherapy group were half as likely to die. The median overall survival was 11.3 months in those who did not receive immunotherapy, whereas survival in the immunotherapy group was longer and the median has not yet been reached.
But patients in the immunotherapy group had more kidney problems, more immune-related adverse events and were more likely to stop treatment because of side effects…