Immunotherapy study gives lung-cancer patients hope

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Immunotherapy study gives lung-cancer patients hope

Immunotherapy offers new treatment potential for those with lung cancer. For some, it mean more time with familiy and few side effects.

To learn that you have lung cancer and that it has migrated elsewhere in your body is to be told some of the worst news a doctor can deliver.

The prognosis is poor, and treatments aimed at preserving as much life as possible can be grueling, the side effects whittling away at the quality of the time you have.

But that’s beginning to change for some lung-cancer patients as therapies that are designed to work with a person’s immune system stall and shrink tumors. That buys people more time with their family and friends, sometimes with minimal hard-to-manage side effects.

Treatments for lung cancer — the most deadly of cancers — are leading the way in immunotherapy. Two drug approvals came this year, one for a treatment called Opdivo and the other for Keytruda. Both have been shown to improve survival and are approved for patients with non-small-cell lung cancer that has spread beyond the lung. For now, the Food and Drug Administration has signed off on their use in those who have already tried another treatment to no avail.

Research is underway in Columbus and elsewhere to see whether it makes sense to use immunotherapy as a first-line treatment. The work here focuses on Opdivo, a drug that was previously approved for melanoma patients and is part of a growing category of new and experimental therapies that stand to revolutionize cancer treatment.

“This is not what we typically consider chemotherapy. It’s not a chemical,” said Dr. David Carbone, director of thoracic oncology at Ohio State University’s Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital.

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