Scientists have found that immunotherapy can effectively help patients who are fighting against lung cancer. In this article, we will discuss the immunotherapy drug to treat lung cancer and the latest updates. 

Lung cancer is considered one of the common types of cancer that has a huge impact on approximately 2.1 million people and causes around 1.7 million deaths every year. It is common in both men and women 

Lung cancer usually occurs when the cells in the lungs grow out of control. It is common in people who smoke. 

There are two major types of lung cancer:

  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer(NSCLC)

About 85% of lung cancer that occurs is NSCLC. Adenocarcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Large Cell Carcinoma are some of the common types of lung cancers. 

  • Small Cell Lung Cancer(SCLC)

It is also known as oat cell cancer. About 15% of lung cancers are found to be SCLC. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are some of the few known treatments for SCLC. 

Surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation can be used to treat lung cancer but if it is in the advanced stages, these treatments might not work to completely cure cancer but can only improve the chances of survival. Therefore, new treatments were needed for patients with advanced lung cancer. Immune-based cancer therapies and treatments might treat advanced lung cancers. Immunotherapy helps a person’s immune system to eliminate or control cancer. Recent studies show that chemotherapy alone or the therapy accompanied by other treatments resulted in improvements in the patients’ health.

For so many years, researchers have been struggling to study the exact role of the immune system in treating cancer. Immunotherapy also is known as biologic therapy is a treatment that can boost the body’s immunity or natural defenses to fight cancer. Let’s have an in-depth discussion about immunotherapy drugs to treat lung cancer

Firstly, in March 2015, Nivolumab was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treating Squamous Cell Lung cancer once the first treatment had stopped working. Nivolumab is a checkpoint inhibitor that targets PD-1 and PD- L1 pathways. It is specifically approved for subsets of people with NSCLC and SCLC that have following treatment with at least one other line of treatment and platinum-based chemotherapy. 

In October 2015, Pembrolizumab, a checkpoint inhibitor that particularly targets PD-1 and PD-L1 pathways were approved for the treatment of advanced NSCLC, for tumors that release a protein called PD-L1, and also for those who first received chemotherapy. 

Later in October 2016, atezolizumab was approved for treating people with advanced NSCLC after chemotherapy. Atezolizumab is a checkpoint indicator that targets PD-1/PD-L1 and is approved for patients with advanced NSCLC as well as SCLC.

Note- What you must know about immunotherapy drugs to treat lung cancer? Immune checkpoints suppress the immune system. Cancer cells usually take over these checkpoints so that the immune system does not target them, allowing them to grow further. PD-1 is one of the checkpoints that is used by the cancer cells. Blocking the PD-1 makes your immune system easily recognize the cancer cells and block them. Nivolumab and pembrolizumab tend to target the PD-1 checkpoint and atezolizumab targets PD-L1, a checkpoint that can interact with PD-1. Nivolumab and atezolizumab are specifically approved for patients with advanced NSCLC, once they receive their first chemotherapy. Pembrolizumab was approved by the FDA for patients with PD-L1 expression in over 50% of cells, in patients with PD-L1 expression in more than 1% of cells. If a patient has high-levels of PD-L1 expression, pembrolizumab can work better than chemotherapy. 

These are a few important things that one must know about immunotherapy drugs to treat lung cancer. Much research is being conducted to increase the efficiency of immunotherapy such as pairing it up with other treatments like checkpoint inhibitors, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Patients also tend to face lesser side effects compared to chemotherapy while using immunotherapy for treating lung cancer. Researchers say that they are still looking for better ways for the treatment to work efficiently.