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Lung Cancer Cure: Chemo May Soon Be History, Immunotherapy More Effective

By Sounak Mukhopadhyay , Nov 10, 2016 09:31 PM EST
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Chemotherapy, which has so far been considered as one of the major methods of lung cancer cure, may soon be a thing of the past. According to a recent study, targeted medications have a better effect than chemo. More oncologists are now opting for immunotherapy.

Lung cancer kills around 160,000 people in the United States every year. More than half of the people diagnosed with this killer disease die within one year. One major reason behind that is, in most cases, patients get diagnosed only when they reach an advanced stage of cancer.

Cancer treatment has changed over the years. During the first few years, oncologists did not consider lung cancer as a single disease, but a series of a number of diseases. Now, they opt for targeted medications for a number of patients with high-risk mutations and succeed.

Former US President Jimmy Carter successfully went through immunotherapy for his advanced melanoma. The same kind of treatment can benefit a huge number of people in the country. Around one-third of patients diagnosed at an advanced stage can benefit from this lung cancer cure strategy.

The new drug, which beats chemo on safety and effectiveness, is Keytruda. In October, the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug as a first-line treatment for those who have a high concentration of PD-L1 protein on cancer cells. This is the first time that immunotherapy is recognized by the FDA as a preferred method of treatment.

Julie Brahmer, an oncologist at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, had a patient on Keytruda for five years. The patient has now seen her daughter graduate to college. Before an oncologist goes for Keytruda, the patient will go through tests to determine if there is a high level of PD-L1 on their tumors. "We don't want to oversell this, but for someone like me who has worked in the trenches for years, this is a big deal," the Washington Post quoted Hopkins as saying.

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