Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Doctors cite value of immunotherapy

Lung cancer patients are heavily benefitting from new treatments, Parade magazine reports

A lot of good news has been developing in the past several years about finding and treating lung cancer, according to Parade magazine.

A recent article by Marygrace Taylor suggests that, despite the disease growing for both never-smokers and women, "there's reason to be optimistic."

How so?

"There's been a huge jump in how long people are living with lung cancer," the piece quotes Dr. Nathan Pennell, Cleveland Clinic oncologist, as saying. "It's an extraordinary change."
Dr. Nathan Pennell

The Parade story then goes on to cite the value of such treatments as immunotherapy, which "helps the immune system better recognize and remove cancer cells without necessarily impacting normal cells," according to Dr. Jacob Sands, an American Lung Association spokesman. 

More than 1,000 clinical trials are currently studying how patients "can benefit from checkpoint inhibitors, immunotherapy drugs that block proteins that cancer cells use to stave off attacks from the immune system," Taylor writes.

Pennell adds that "we now know that if you add a checkpoint inhibitor to chemo, people live substantially longer" — and most likely with fewer side effects.

Dr. Jacob Sands
Sands also points to the efficacy of an advanced screening tool like low-dose CT scans, which "catch cancers at earlier stages when they're more likely to be cured."

Another new weapon in the war against lung cancer is stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), a specialized form of highly targeted radiation "often used to treat patients with early-stage lung cancer when surgery isn't an option."

One recent trial, the article reports, found the treatment "could double survival time without progression of [the] disease."

Finally, advanced bronchoscopy, which uses a lighted tube to examine abnormal parts of the lung just as traditional bronchoscopy does but also utilizes "smaller, more powerful tools" to create 3D maps of patients' lungs and helps doctors access areas that the traditional method can't reach.

More information about innovations in cancer treatments can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at caregivers.

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