Immunotherapy, also known as immune checkpoint inhibitors, is an innovative approach to lung cancer treatment. Immunotherapy, as opposed to traditional treatments that directly target cancer cells, stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. This is accomplished by inhibiting the immune system’s ability to recognize and combat cancer cells by blocking specific proteins or molecules.
Lung cancer is an important issue for the public and the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Traditional lung cancer treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. However, the advent of immunotherapy has changed the face of lung cancer treatment. Immunotherapy uses the body’s immune system to target and destroy cancer cells, providing patients with new hope and promising outcomes in the fight against this lethal disease.
Key Immunotherapy Agents
A checkpoint protein called programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) is present on the surface of T cells, a subset of white blood cells. Programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) is a protein that binds to PD-1 and suppresses the immune system in cancer cells. Immune system attacks on cancer cells are made possible by PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors like pembrolizumab and nivolumab, which block this interaction.
The immune checkpoint protein CTLA-4, also known as cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4, has the ability to impede immune responses. A CTLA-4 inhibitor called imilimumab is combined with PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors to increase their anti-cancer effects.
CAR T-Cell Therapy:
Through genetic modification, a patient’s T cells can express a receptor that targets particular proteins on cancer cells as part of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. Although it is still in the experimental stage, this novel therapy for lung cancer has shown promise in clinical trials.
Benefits of Immunotherapy for Lung Cancer
Improved Survival Rates:
Immunotherapy has significantly increased the survival rates for some lung cancer patients, particularly those with advanced or metastatic disease who have limited treatment options.
Fewer Side Effects:
Compared to traditional treatments like chemotherapy, immunotherapy typically causes fewer severe side effects. Patients often experience less nausea, hair loss, and fatigue.
Some patients treated with immunotherapy experience durable responses, with the immune system continuing to combat cancer cells long after treatment has concluded.
Treatment for All Stages:
Immunotherapy can be used as a first-line treatment, in combination with other therapies, or as a follow-up treatment after surgery or radiation.
Challenges and Considerations
Immunotherapy is not a one-size-fits-all treatment for lung cancer, despite its great potential. The effectiveness of immunotherapy varies based on the type and stage of lung cancer, and some patients do not respond to it. Additionally, patients may have immune-related side effects that need to be closely watched for and managed.
Furthermore, there are logistical and financial obstacles to the broad use of immunotherapy due to its high cost and requirement for careful patient selection.
Lung cancer immunotherapy is a major advancement in the fight against this deadly disease. The future is bright for improving outcomes and giving lung cancer patients hope as long as research is conducted to identify the best candidates and refine treatment strategies. This novel strategy highlights the tremendous potential of immunotherapy in the field of cancer therapy in addition to providing new treatment options by utilizing the body’s immune system.
Founder & Executive Chairman
Sr. Consultant Medical Oncologist
Nepal Cancer Hospital & Research Center
Designation: Founder and Chairman, Senior Consultant Medical Oncologist
Qualification: MBBS, MD, Post Graduate Training in Medical Oncology
Department: Medical Oncology
Special interest: Chemotherapy, Immunotherapy, Targeted Therapy, Precision Medicine