2-Jun-15 6:00 AM  CST

Study Finds Immune System Drug May Be Effective Against Lung Cancer

The human body is a complex and fascinating piece of engineering. Made up of multiple systems of organization meant to keep the body running at its peak the human body is able to repair itself, fight off disease and replicate new cells to replace old ones. One of the most essential systems and one responsible for maintaining the well being of the human body is the immune system.

The immune system is made up of various specialized cells and organs that work to protect the body from organisms that seek to do it harm. Leukocytes or white blood cells are one of the key players involved in maintaining the body’s immune system. White blood cells actively seek out and destroy foreign invaders in the body. It is the destruction of these abnormal cells that aids in the prevention of cancer. Of course there are some abnormal cells that are able to fly under the immune systems radar, causing tumors to form, which often lead to cancer.

 Immunotherapy drugs are some of the news ways to combat cancer. Immunotherapy drugs restore the body’s immune system and allow it to better seek out abnormal cells that may have otherwise gone undetected.  A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that the immune therapy drug Opdivo (nivolumab) may increase the survival rate of those who have been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer by an average of 1 year. While 1 year may seem minimal to some to those who have been diagnosed with this most common form of lung cancer, 1 year is a ray of hope.

 Taxotere or docetaxel as it is known generically, is the most commonly prescribed drug used to treat non-small cell lung cancer, but as is the case with many antineoplastic therapies, the side effects are often harsh and very unforgiving. Researchers followed 272 patients who had been diagnosed with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Half of the study group was given the traditional treatment of docetaxel and the other half of the study group was given the immunotherapy drug nivolumab. 42% of the patients who had been treated with nivolumab survived an additional year compared to 24% of the patients who had been treated with docetaxel. Additionally, only 7% of the patients who had received nivolumab reported having severe side effects or reactions to the drug while 55% of the patients treated with docetaxel reported severe side effects or reactions.

Many researchers and health professionals believe immunotherapy is a breath through in the treatment of cancer. Progress has already been made in targeting specific cancer cells, such as prostate and breast cancers, and researchers believe these latest findings only provide stronger proof to this point. Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide.  As oncologist Dr. Nagashree Sectharamu with North Shore LIJ Cancer Institute in Lake Success, New York put it, “Immunotherapy is going to take the treatment of cancer to a whole new level, and in lung cancer, it’s going to be paradigm changing,”


National Cancer Institute, (2015), “Immunotherapy: Using the Immune System to Treat Cancer”, http://www.cancer.gov/research/areas/treatment/immunotherapy-using-immune-system, retrieved, 2 June 2015

Thompson, D., (2015), “Immune Based Drugs Promising Against Lung Cancer”, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/lung-cancer/news/20150531/immune-based-drug-shows-potential-against-another-form-of-lung-cancer

For additional information on this article, please contact:
Sandra Andrews
(717) 360-1159
Source: Sandy Andrews  

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