Lung cancer patients live longer with immune therapy

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The research could lead to new treatment regimens

Some new hope for many patients with Lung cancer.

Doctors have found new ways to use some immune-boosting drugs to fight lung cancer.

In one, scientists at New York University conducted a study involving more than 600 patients with advanced lung cancer.

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The study results apply only to patients whose lung cancer does not begin in the squamous cells (or surface lung cell layer) and who also lack certain genetic mutations. Similarly, the new drug known as checkpoint inhibitors allows the immune system of the patient in order to destroy the deadly cancerous cells. They were picked at random to receive either chemotherapy plus immunotherapy, or chemotherapy plus a placebo, with two-thirds receiving the combination that included immunotherapy.

But patients in the immunotherapy group had more kidney problems, more immune-related adverse events and were more likely to stop treatment because of side effects. The most common side effects were nausea, anemia and fatigue and in both groups about 65% of patients experienced severe side effects.

Chief of Medical Oncology, Dr. Roy Herbst from the Yale Cancer Center said that, "I've been treating lung cancer for 25 years now, and I've never seen such a big paradigm shift as we're seeing with immunotherapy".

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Cancer patients should be given immunotherapy as the first line of treatment following the results of "game-changing" trials, charities say. "I only treat lung cancer and I've been doing that for about 20 years".

But the benefits for Opdivo and Yervoy lasted less than two months on average.

"What we look at in these trials is overall survival - how long patients live - and we look at a number called the median survival - how long 50% of patients live", said Gomez.

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The estimated survival after a year was 69 per cent in those taking the immunotherapy drugs compared to 49 per cent who only had chemotherapy.

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