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June - Immunotherapy Month

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Immunotherapy for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
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Cancer:  >  Lung Cancer - Non small cell  >  Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy for Non-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. Immunotherapy can be used to treat some forms of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

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” – molecules 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 newer drugs that target these checkpoints hold a lot of promise as cancer treatments.

  • Nivolumab (Opdivo) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda) target PD-1, a protein on immune system cells called T cells that normally helps keep these cells from attacking other cells in the body. By blocking PD-1, these drugs boost the immune response against cancer cells. This can shrink some tumors or slow their growth.
  • 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.

Nivolumab, pembrolizumab and atezolizumab can be used in people with certain types of advanced NSCLC whose cancer starts growing again after chemotherapy or other drug treatments. Pembrolizumab and atezolizumab can also be used as part of the first treatment in some people with advanced disease. For people with Stage III NSCLC who cannot have surgery or chemotherapy along with radiation, pembrolizumab can be given first.

  • Durvalumab (Imfinzi) also targets the PD-L1 protein. This drug is used a little differently than the other immunotherapy drugs. It is used in people with certain types of NSCLC whose cancer has not gotten worse after they have already received chemotherapy along with radiation (chemoradiation). The goal of treatment with this drug is to keep the cancer from getting worse for as long as possible.

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

Possible side effects

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

Other, more serious side effects occur less often. These drugs work by basically removing the brakes on the body’s immune system. 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.

Drugs commonly used to treat non small cell Lung cancer.Side effects of these drugs can include fatigue, cough, nausea, itching, skin rash, loss of appetite, constipation, joint pain, and diarrhea.



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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