• Ziqi Yue, PharmD

Treatment Advancements in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for more than 80% of lung cancer (American Lung Association, 2020). The standard course of treatment in metastatic NSCLC, known as platinum-based doublet, consists of a platinum compound plus a third-generation anticancer drug. Platinum compound, including cisplatin and carboplatin, is a class of chemotherapy that kills cancer cells by causing structural damage to DNA inside of cancer cells (Nature, 2017). Unlike small cell lung cancer (SCLC), NSCLC spreads more slowly to other parts of the body than SCLC, but at the same time, it is not as sensitive to chemotherapy (MedicineNet, 2020).

Immunotherapy, often used along with chemotherapy for stage 3 and 4 patients, is a major focus in recent studies (National Cancer Institute, 2020). Immunotherapy, such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, triggers your own immune system to fight against cancer. Immunotherapy has two main functions. It improves the efficiency of the immune system, and it trains the immune system to fight against cancer cells (SCNOW, 2019).

Current immunotherapy for lung cancer includes Tecentriq® (atezolizumab), Imfinzi® (durvalumab), Opdivo® (nivolumab), and Keytruda® (pembrolizumab). These medications boost and train your immune system to fight against cancer cells by inhibiting PD-1 or PD-L1 proteins. PD-1 is a protein found on immune cells, while PD-L1 is a protein found on cancer cells. When immune cells attack cancer cells, the binding of PD-1 and PD-L1 will deactivate immune cells. Cancer cells will, in consequence, escape from being killed by the immune system. To prevent the inactivation of immune cells, immunotherapy is designed to block the binding of these two proteins (National Cancer Institute, 2020). 

Imfinzi®, approved by the FDA for stage 3 NSCLC in May 2017, is one of the newest lung cancer advances. Imfinzi is the first immunotherapy targeted towards patients who are not candidates for surgery and have not progressed after chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It can benefit lung cancer patients by slowing the progression of disease over time (American Cancer Association, 2020).

To learn more about lung cancer treatment plans, schedule a consultation with a world-class U.S. medical oncologist through RangeLight Health today.

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