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World Cancer Day 2021: Is Immunotherapy Changing The Future Of Lung Cancer?

In progressive lung cancer, chemotherapy gives modest advantage as most of the patients survive only a few months to a year. Chemotherapy can't be considered as a standard of care. Now, immunotherapy is changing the scenario of lung cancer treatment.

World Cancer Day 2021: Is Immunotherapy Changing The Future Of Lung Cancer?

World Cancer Day is observed on February 4

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Immunotherapy agents are mostly well tolerated
  2. Immunotherapy may result in immunologic memory of cancerous cells
  3. Immunology is a big revolutions in the field of cancer treatment

World Cancer Day: Lung cancer is one of the primary causes of cancer incidence and mortality in India. Earlier, survival from advanced stage of lung cancer was poor with average life expectancy, and chemotherapy was the only treatment. Immunotherapy is the use of drugs intended to enhance the efficiency of the body's own immune system against the cancer cells. Immunotherapy has been in use for over 5 decades, but the recent developments of check point inhibitors have shown promising results in treating various types of cancers.

How checkpoint inhibitors work

Checkpoints are the brakes applied to the immune system, preventing it from attacking its own healthy cells and tissues. However, these checkpoint signals get boosted in some cancers that prevent the body's immune system from destroying cancer cells. Checkpoint inhibitors discharge these brakes in a controlled way, allowing the immune system to recognise and eliminate these cancer cells.


Also read: Know The Symptoms And Risk Factors Of Leukemia

Lung cancer: Treatment options

In progressive lung cancer, chemotherapy gives modest advantage as most of the patients survive only a few months to a year. Chemotherapy can't be considered as a standard of care. Now, immunotherapy is changing the scenario of lung cancer treatment.

Benefits of immunotherapy 

  • Immunotherapy agents are mostly well tolerated.
  • Immunotherapy seeks out tumor-specific antigens so that only cancerous cells are targeted and destroyed, leaving healthy cells intact.
  • Immunotherapy may result in immunologic memory of cancerous cells, so that they can be detected if additional cells mutate during a course of time.

Traditionally, chemotherapy is used to treat cancer, especially at an advanced stage. However, the major disadvantage of this treatment method is its inability to discriminate between healthy and cancerous cells, due to which many healthy cells of the body are also lost. The immune system of the body which is already weakened due to cancer becomes even weaker.

Also read: World Cancer Day: Understanding The Role Of Palliative Care During Cancer Treatment

Immunology and immune-oncology are being considered as the biggest revolutions in the field of treatment for cancer. These immune cells help our body fight off malignant cancer cells, so if a person's immunity is boosted enough then it becomes easier for the body to fight off the disease. Many people have benefitted from immuno-oncology treatment methods. Credited with various successes, immune booster therapy is tailor-made for each individual. Strengthened immune cells specifically target and eliminate cancerous cells, without harming the healthy cells of the body. Not only does it reduce the chances of remission, but it also removes the debilitating side-effects which are generally associated with the traditional cancer treatments.

Immunotherapy: Timing is important

The timing of use of immunotherapy essential and should be given as early as possible to achieve a permanent reduction of the disease.

Also read: Lung Cancer Prevention: Superfoods To Lower Lung Cancer Risk

(Dr Shuaib Zaidi, Senior Consultant, Surgical Oncology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi)


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