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June - Immunotherapy Month

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Immunotherapy - small cell lung cancer
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Cancer:  >  Lung Cancer - Small Cell  >  Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy for Small Cell Lung Cancer

Immunotherapy is the use of medicines to stimulate a person’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively. It can be used to treat some people with small cell lung cancer (SCLC).

Immune checkpoint inhibitors

An important part of the immune system is its ability to keep itself from attacking normal cells in the body. To do this, it uses “checkpoints”, which are proteins on immune cells that need to be turned on (or off) to start an immune response. Cancer cells sometimes use these checkpoints to avoid being attacked by the immune system. But drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors target the these proteins, helping to restore the immune response against cancer cells.

  • Nivolumab (Opdivo) targets PD-1, a protein on T cells (a type of immune system cell) that normally helps keep these cells from attacking other cells in the body. By blocking PD-1, this drug boosts the immune response against cancer cells. It is used to treat advanced SCLC in people whose cancer continues to grow after getting at least two previous lines of treatment, including chemotherapy with either cisplatin or carboplatin.
  • Atezolizumab (Tecentriq) targets PD-L1, a protein related to PD-1 that is found on some tumor cells and immune cells. Blocking this protein can also help boost the immune response against cancer cells. This drug can be used as part of the first-line treatment for advanced SCLC, along with the chemo drugs carboplatin and etoposide. 

These drugs are given as an intravenous (IV) infusion, typically every 2 or 3 weeks.

Possible side effects

Side effects of these drugs can include fatigue, cough, nausea, skin rash, decreased appetite, constipation, joint pain, and diarrhea.

Other, more serious side effects occur less often. These drugs work by removing one of the safeguards that normally helps keep the immune system in check. Sometimes the immune system starts attacking other parts of the body, which can cause serious or even life-threatening problems in the lungs, intestines, liver, hormone-making glands, kidneys, or other organs.

It’s very important to report any new side effects to your health care team promptly. If serious side effects do occur, treatment may need to be stopped and you may get high doses of corticosteroids to suppress your immune system.

Immunotherapy drugs used to treat small cell Lung cancer. Nivolumab (Opdivo) targets PD-1,Atezolizumab (Tecentriq) targets PD-L1,

Medical Disclaimer: The Contents of this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.


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