“The treatment of lung cancer has advanced rapidly in the past 10 years,” says McLeod Medical Oncologist Karim Tazi , MD. “Many involve so-called targeted therapies.”
The treatment of lung cancer depends on the stage. For patients with early stage lung cancer (Stages 1 and 2), who have the tumor removed by a thoracic surgeon, chemotherapy may be used to ensure all of the cancer is gone. A patient with more advanced tumors (Stage 3) may be cured with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
A patient with Stage 4 lung cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy (drugs that kill cancer cells), targeted therapies (treatments that block certain gene alterations of the cancer that are known to promote cancer growth) and biologics (essentially another form of targeted therapies). We call these biologics, because they are made using living organisms and are designed to interfere with the growth of cancer or starve it from its blood supply. More recently, we’ve added immunotherapy, treatments that are designed to harness one’s own immune system to attack the cancer cells.
The most significant recent advancement for lung cancer treatment is the FDA approval of immunotherapy for treatment of advanced lung cancer. These treatments have proven effective in a proportion of patients, in whom chemotherapy has not worked or has stopped working.
In addition, immunotherapy works very differently from traditional chemotherapy. Although it can have serious side effects, this treatment usually does not cause nausea, fatigue or hair loss.
Another important advancement in the management of lung cancer is the availability of low-dose CT scan screening to help us diagnose cancer in its earliest stage. This technology has the potential to decrease lung cancer-related deaths by about 20%.
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