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The Truth About Lung Cancer Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy

12-04-2018

According to the American Cancer Society, Immunotherapy includes treatments that work in different ways. Some boost the body’s immune system in a very general way. Others help train the immune system to attack cancer cells specifically.

Immunotherapy is not yet approved for all types of cancers and is more effective for certain types.

What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, just as it does to fight off germs, viruses, and allergies.

How does immunotherapy work in lung cancer?

  • Triggers the immune system to attack the cancer cell
  • Changes proteins inside the cancer cell
  • Blocks or turns off signals that tell the cancer cell to grow
  • Carries toxins directly to the cancer cell

How is immunotherapy given to a patient?

Immunotherapy is given as an infusion, through a vein. This treatment happens at an infusion center.

How is immunotherapy used for lung cancer?

  • As first line of treatment
  • Alone or in combination with a different type of treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • After other treatment has stopped working
  • As part of a clinical trial

Are side effects different than chemotherapy?

Yes. Although side effects are fewer, and different from chemotherapy, they can still be serious. These drugs typically do not cause nausea or hair loss.

How do I know if immunotherapy is right for me?

Special tests will be completed first. In some cases, you may need to have an additional biopsy. You might be eligible to receive an immunotherapy drug if your tumor expresses a specific protein. You might be eligible to receive other immunotherapy drugs if your cancer continues to grow after receiving chemotherapy.

Researchers have learned about some of the differences in cancer cells (or other cells near them) that help them grow and thrive. This has led to the development of drugs that “target” these differences. Treatment with these drugs is called targeted therapy.

What is targeted therapy?

Targeted therapy targets specific genes or proteins in the cancer cell, on the surface of the cell, or in cells related to cancer growth. These genes or proteins are called driver mutations and are different from hereditary genes. Targeted therapy is use to try and help stop cancer from growing.

How does targeted therapy work in lung cancer?

  • Changes the inner workings of the cell; what makes it different from a normal, healthy cell
  • Blocks or turns off signals that tells cancer cells to grow
  • Keeps cells from living longer than usual
  • Causes cell death

How is targeted therapy given?

Targeted therapy is given as a pill or an infusion. Pills are delivered to your home from a specialty pharmacy and infusions are given in an infusion center.

How is targeted therapy used for lung cancer?

  • As first line of treatment
  • Alone or in combination with a different type of treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • After other treatment has stopped working
  • As part of a clinical trial

Are side effects different than chemotherapy?

Yes. Although side effects are fewer, and different from chemotherapy, they can still be serious. These drugs typically do not cause nausea or hair loss.

How do I know it’s right for me?

Special tests will be completed first. In some cases, you may need to have an additional biopsy. Targeted treatment will not work if the tumor does not have the specific target.

Don’t navigate cancer alone.

Frederick Regional Health System’s award-winning cancer program provides a nurse navigator to each patient diagnosed with cancer. Our nurse navigator’s goal is to help ease anxiety and eliminate barriers to care.

According to Dara Claxton, Registered Nurse and Oncology Nurse Navigator with Frederick Regional Health System, it is important to speak with your doctor about which treatment may be right for you. Call 240-566-4100 to learn more.



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