The Latest Advances in Lung Cancer Therapy

Types of Lung Cancer and Treatment Options

Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and other countries. It is a form of cancer that originates from cells within the lungs, and it can be both very aggressive and difficult to treat. There are several different types of lung cancer, each with its own characteristics and treatment options. Understanding the differences between these types can help people make more informed decisions about their care.

The most common type of lung cancer is non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This type accounts for 80-85% of all cases, and it typically grows more slowly than other forms. NSCLC is divided into three subtypes: adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. Lung cancer treatment options vary depending on the stage at which NSCLC was detected but generally include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or targeted therapy drugs such as gefitinib or erlotinib. 

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) accounts for 10-15% of all cases and tends to spread quickly throughout the body due to its highly malignant nature.

Diagnosis and Staging of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common and deadliest cancers. Early diagnosis and accurate staging are essential to make informed decisions on treatment options and prognosis. Diagnosis typically begins with a medical history, physical examination, imaging tests, and biopsy. Once diagnosed, the stage of lung cancer helps physicians select the appropriate treatment plan.

  • Medical History: The medical history is taken to assess your risk factors for developing lung cancer such as smoking history or a family history of the disease. This information can help your physician determine whether further testing is necessary for diagnosis. 
  • Physical Exam: During this exam, your doctor will look for signs of lung cancer including lumps or masses in the chest area as well as listen to your lungs with a stethoscope for any abnormalities such as wheezing or crackling sounds. 
  • Imaging Tests: Imaging tests are used to detect tumors in the lungs which may include X-rays, CT scans, PET scans and MRI’s depending on what type of tumor is suspected by your physician. These tests also provide valuable information about how far the tumor has spread from its original location in order to stage it accurately before beginning treatment plans. 

Surgery for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer that affects people around the world. Surgery is one of the primary treatment options for individuals who are diagnosed with lung cancer, and it can be a key factor in helping to reduce symptoms, extend life expectancy, and increase quality of life.

Surgery may be recommended for patients who have early-stage lung cancer or those whose tumor has not spread to other organs. In some cases, surgery may also be an option for patients with more advanced stages of lung cancer if their tumors are localized in only one area. The type and scope of surgery will depend on several factors including stage at diagnosis, size of tumor, location within the lungs, and patient’s overall health. 

The most common type of surgery used to treat lung cancer is a lobectomy—the removal or resectioning (partial removal) an entire lobe (section) within a single lung. This procedure can reduce symptoms associated with the disease such as shortness of breath or chest pain as well as improve quality-of-life by removing part or all affected tissue from the lungs. 

Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer

Radiation therapy is a common treatment for lung cancer, and it can be used alone or in combination with other treatments such as chemotherapy or surgery. It is often used to shrink tumors before surgery, reduce the risk of cancer recurrence after surgery, and provide relief from symptoms caused by advanced lung cancer. In some cases, radiation therapy may even be used to cure the disease.

Radiation therapy for lung cancer works by delivering high-energy x-rays to the tumor site that damage its DNA and stop it from growing or spreading. The radiation is delivered from a machine outside of your body in either short sessions over several weeks or one larger dose spread out over several days. This type of treatment is called external beam radiotherapy (EBRT). 

In addition, radiation therapy can also involve placing radioactive material directly into your lungs via an implantable device known as brachytherapy (BT). This type of treatment delivers smaller doses of radiation directly to the tumor site over a longer period of time than EBRT does. Brachytherapy may be an option if you are unable to have EBRT due to other health issues such as heart disease or emphysema. 

Chemotherapy for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common and aggressive forms of cancer, and chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments for it. Chemotherapy for lung cancer involves using powerful drugs to kill off rapidly dividing cells, which are present in tumors. It can be used to treat early and advanced stages of lung cancer, as well as help reduce tumor size or stop its spread (metastasis).

To understand how chemotherapy works for lung cancer, it’s important to understand how tumors develop in the lungs. Lung tumors are created when abnormal cells grow out of control and form a mass that can interfere with normal functioning. These cells divide rapidly, making them susceptible to chemotherapy medication that is designed specifically target these types of cells.

The goal of chemotherapy for lung cancer patients is twofold: reduce tumor size or keep the tumor from spreading further into other parts of the body; while also preventing recurrence by killing any remaining hidden tumor cells after surgery or radiation treatment. Depending on a patient’s medical history and stage at diagnosis, they may receive either single-agent (one drug) or combination therapy (two or more drugs) through an IV infusion every few weeks over a period ranging from several months up to a year. 

Targeted Therapy for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Targeted therapy is an emerging form of cancer treatment that is proving to be a game changer in treating non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Targeted therapy uses drugs or other substances to specifically target the abnormally functioning cells of the tumor, while minimizing damage to healthy cells. This type of treatment can be used on its own or in combination with other treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgery.

Targeted therapies are designed to block mutations that drive NSCLC growth and progression. These drugs work by blocking the growth signals from specific proteins that allow tumor cells to survive and divide. For example, one targeted therapy known as monoclonal antibody therapies use antibodies created from a single immune cell which recognize specific proteins on tumor cells. Once these antibodies bind to the protein on the tumor cell surface, they block signals for growth and survival which helps stop or slow down cancer progression.

Other targeted therapies focus on blocking specific genetic changes within tumors such as mutations in genes like epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK). These genetic changes are seen more often in certain types of NSCLC tumors like adenocarcinoma subtype tumors and often lead to uncontrolled growth.

Immunotherapy (Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors) to Treat Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancers

Immunotherapy or immune checkpoint inhibitors is a novel form of treatment that has been used to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). The immunotherapy approach works by targeting specific receptors on the surface of immune cells known as “checkpoints”. By blocking these checkpoints, it allows the body’s own immune system to target and destroy cancer cells more effectively. 

Immune checkpoint inhibitors have proven to be effective in treating NSCLC, particularly for those patients who have already been treated with chemotherapy and radiation but are still battling advanced stages of disease. In a phase III clinical trial conducted by Merck & Co., their drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab) was found to significantly improve survival rates in people with NSCLC when added to standard chemotherapy treatments compared with chemotherapy alone. 

This new form of treatment is considered a major breakthrough in the fight against lung cancer as it offers patients an alternative way of fighting this deadly disease that does not involve additional rounds of chemotherapy or radiation therapy which can be physically and emotionally draining for those suffering from this type of cancer. 

Another benefit associated with using immune checkpoint inhibitors is its ability to reduce side effects associated with traditional forms of treatment such as nausea.

Managing Side Effects of Treatment

Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, can cause a variety of side effects that can be difficult to manage. It’s important for patients to be aware of the potential side effects and have strategies in place to help cope with them.

Some common side effects include fatigue, nausea, pain, hair loss or changes in skin tone. These side effects can cause physical discomfort and emotional distress. Many cancer treatments may also interfere with daily activities such as eating or sleeping. 

It is essential for patients to have realistic expectations about their treatment plan and the potential for experiencing side-effects. It’s important to communicate openly with your healthcare team about how you are feeling throughout the course of treatment so they can help better manage any potential symptoms that arise. 

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