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Immunotherapy is Eclipsing Chemotherapy in First-Line Lung Cancer Treatment

BY Mike Hennessy, Sr.
PUBLISHED December 14, 2016
AFTER DECADES OF TURNING first to chemotherapy when treating cancer, doctors and researchers are building a new path to the future, and immunotherapy is one of its most crucial components.

Immunotherapy is a term that continues to dominate oncology conference agendas and news headlines as studies push the field forward. This is especially true in the treatment of lung cancers, where immunotherapies are quickly becoming more and more important. In a feature story in this special issue of CURE®, we look at the evolution of these drugs and other treatment strategies for the disease, including immunotherapy combinations and targeted therapies. In particular, we note that immunotherapies are considered appropriate first-line treatment for many who aren’t eligible for therapy with targeted drugs. In the past, these patients would have started with chemotherapy.

We point out that FDA-approved immunotherapies, such as Opdivo (nivolumab), Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and Tecentriq (atezolizumab), have demonstrated long-lasting benefits in lung cancer. Not only are they improving duration of survival, but they are allowing eligible patients to undergo treatment with fewer severe side effects. Mark Kris, M.D., a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, explains that severe side effects are experienced by approximately half of patients who receive the chemotherapy docetaxel, but only by about 10 percent of patients who take immunotherapies.

It’s an exciting time for not only researchers who are committed to finding the best treatment options, but also for patients who are living longer as a result of these advancements.

Also in this issue, our cover story touches on the importance of smoking cessation. It’s crucial to note that it is never too late to quit. In fact, quitting today will cut your risk of dying from lung cancer in half in just 10 years. While it isn’t easy and there is no direct roadmap to your best way to stop smoking, CURE® offers a variety of methods that you can consider.

We also take a closer look at six different groups that are strong advocates for people in the lung cancer community, with goals ranging from helping individual patients to raising awareness to raising money for research. Finally, we explore how earlier palliative care can improve outcomes in lung cancer, and we offer a special report on an investigational web app that helps improve overall survival in patients with the disease. As the science behind cancer care continues to evolve, so do patients’ treatment experiences and health outcomes. We hope you find this special issue helpful in your quest to understand what lies ahead when it comes to treatment for this disease.

As always, thank you for reading.

MIKE HENNESSY, SR
Chairman and CEO
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