Non-small cell lung cancer immunotherapy

5 min read


What treatments are available for non-small cell lung cancer?

If you have been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer, you may want to know what treatments are available to treat your cancer.


Non-small cell lung cancer, which includes adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma, makes up about 85% of diagnosed lung cancers. There are many different therapies available to treat this cancer. By looking at your personalized health profile and running a series of tests, your doctor can suggest the one that is best for you.


In addition to therapies such as radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, your doctor might consider cancer immunotherapy as an option. Certain types of immunotherapy are authorized for treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.


Immunotherapy has been shown to be effective at treating non-small cell lung cancer in a number of clinical trials, both as a standalone therapy and in combination with other treatments. It helps fight cancer by working with your immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells.



How non-small cell lung cancer immunotherapy works

Immunotherapy can be used alone or in combination with other lung cancer treatment options. There are different types of immunotherapies that have been developed for different types of cancers. Each of these immunotherapies uses your body’s immune system to fight cancer in different ways. Immunotherapies currently available to treat non-small cell lung cancer are monoclonal antibodies, which work as immune checkpoint inhibitors or vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitors.


Immune checkpoints occur naturally in your body. They regulate your immune system response, turning it on or slowing it down when necessary. They help your body tell the difference between “normal” cells and “foreign” cells.


Non-small cell lung cancer has learned how to hide itself from the body’s immune system, appearing as a normal cell to your immune checkpoints.


A number of treatments have been developed to help cancer-fighting cells find non-small cell lung cancer cells. Some of these medicines target the PD-1 or PD-L1 immune checkpoint systems in your body to block the activity of specific checkpoint proteins which, in turn, help to reactivate your immune system to attack cancer cells.


Another way immunotherapy can work is by attacking the blood vessels that surround the tumour, which starves the tumour of oxygen and other nutrients, making it hard to grow.


Several different immunotherapies are authorized for non-small cell lung cancer. These are administered by injection, and patients are closely monitored throughout treatment.


Immunotherapy treatments can be offered as a treatment for your lung cancer, either alone or with chemotherapy, when your lung cancer has spread, cannot be removed by surgery or has grown after treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy. By evaluating your personal health profile, your doctor can tell you if you are a good candidate for immunotherapy.



Meeting the criteria for immunotherapy treatment

Some of the very common side effects of these immunotherapies include lung infection/inflammation, cough, upper respiratory tract infection, rash/skin issues, diarrhea, constipation, fever, nausea, joint/abdominal pain, fatigue, decreased appetite, high blood pressure, bleeding/bruising, abnormal blood and urine test results, difficulty sleeping, headache, tingling sensation/numbness in toes and fingers, change in moods, and infections.


They can also cause some serious and potentially life-threatening side effects such as inflammation of the lungs/brain/heart muscle/skin, decreased number of red blood cells (autoimmune hemolytic anemia), eye disorders, gastrointestinal perforations, wound healing complications, and hemorrhage. These side effects are most likely to begin during treatment; however, side effects can show up months after your last infusion.


Your doctor can help determine if your non-small cell lung cancer can be treated with immunotherapy. By studying your personal patient profile and performing a series of laboratory tests, your doctor can make an informed decision on whether this treatment can be offered to you. It is important that your doctor performs all the tests necessary to ensure you are a good candidate for this treatment.


The right treatment for your non-small cell lung cancer

If you have been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer, the next step is to work with your doctor to make decisions about your treatment. It is important to ask your doctor questions about which treatments are right for you, to ensure you will achieve the best possible treatment outcomes.

How common is non-small cell lung cancer?

As the most common cancer, lung cancer impacts approximately 2.1 million people worldwide. Lung cancer accounts for 12% of all cancers.

If you would like more information about immunotherapy for non-small cell lung cancer, speak with your doctor.