Over the past few years, lung cancer has changed significantly with improving outcomes, particularly attributable to immunotherapy, but how do we continue that trend?
Currently, lung cancer stands as the second most common cancer in both men and women. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be about 235,760 new cases of lung cancer in the United States in 2021 — cases dropped over the past couple of decades, but it still has a high mortality rate. Over the past few years, however, lung cancer has changed significantly with improving outcomes, particularly attributable to immunotherapy, but how do we continue that trend?
Currently, cell-based therapies, including one known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy, are in the very early stages of development for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which makes up about 84% of diagnosed lung cancers today. The therapy, which transplants genetically engineered white cells known as CAR-T cells to specifically attack cancer cells, is leading to limitless possibilities in treating a variety of malignancies. These cells work by recognizing specific proteins expressed on cancer cells and then unleashing cytokines that kill cells on contact. Although CAR-T cells were initially developed and tested in hematological malignancies, there has been some difficulty in identifying which antigens are best for NSCLC and unique enough to cancer cells so as not to injure normal tissue. According to Dr. Adam Schoenfeld, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, in an interview with CURE®: “The problem with lung cancer is that the cancer cells are constantly evolving, and they’re all very different. It’s very challenging to pick a specific target.” Read more from Schoenfeld and others on the emergence of cell-based therapies in NSCLC in this issue’s cover story.
With this in mind, researchers still prevail and are continuing to study and develop this method for a growing number of patient populations. Which brings us to the following questions: What kind of cell-based therapies are being investigated in patients with NSCLC? Why have cell-based therapies focused mainly on hematological malignancies in the past? And how do cell-based therapies — specifically, another one known as tumor- infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy — work in attacking NSCLC cells? Read more about the topic in this special issue of CURE ®, where we identify the strengths and limits of CAR-T cell and TIL therapies, as well as other emerging treatments that could bring continued progress to the world of lung cancer.
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