New immunotherapy treatment for lung cancer

Published: Dec. 7, 2020 at 11:15 AM EST
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Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, accounting for about 25 percent of all cancer deaths. Now, a newly FDA approved drug for patients with non-small cell lung cancer is proven to greatly improve survival.

More than 200,000 people a year in the United States are diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancers, which make up about 80 percent of all lung cancers. Now, the results of a phase three clinical trial show the immunotherapy drug atezolizumab, also known as Tecentriq, improves survival.

Roy Herbst, MD, PhD, chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center explained, “There was 40 plus percent improvement in survival in those patients who got the immunotherapy, the atezolizumab, versus the chemotherapy.”

The trial enrolled 554 patients with stage four metastatic tumors. The patients on atezolizumab survived an average of 20 months, as compared with 13 months for those on chemotherapy. Doctor Herbst, who authored the study, says the drug was well-tolerated by patients and could signal a change in treatment options for non-small cell lung cancer patients.

“Now in those patients, they don’t have to get chemotherapy with all the side effects of chemotherapy,” expressed Dr. Herbst.

Atezolizumab is a checkpoint inhibitor; it targets a protein known as PDL1 on the surface of tumor cells and helps the immune system attack the cancer. Patients receive it every three weeks as an IV infusion. In May, the FDA approved it for the treatment of non-small cell lung carcinoma.

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