Immunotherapy for lung cancer
Some cancers produce particular proteins, such as PD-1 or PD-L1, that stop immune cells from recognising and destroying the cancer cells. Immunotherapy drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors block these proteins. Once the proteins are blocked, the immune cells can attack the cancer.
Checkpoint inhibitors that have been approved for some types of advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) include atezolizumab, durvalumab, nivolumab and pembrolizumab. Several other checkpoint inhibitors are currently being tested in clinical trials for lung cancer. Checkpoint inhibitors do not work for all lung cancers, but some people have had very encouraging results.
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Immunotherapy drugs have different side effects to chemotherapy drugs and most people have few if any side effects. However, immunotherapy can cause inflammation in any of the organs in the body and this sometimes leads to side effects such as fatigue, shortness of breath and diarrhoea.
For more on this, see Immunotherapy.
Video: What is immunotherapy?
Learn more about targeted therapy and immunotherapy in this short video.
Dr Henry Marshall, Thoracic Physician, The University of Queensland Thoracic Research Centre, The Prince Charles Hospital, QLD; Dr Naveed Alam, Thoracic Surgeon, St Vincent’s Melbourne and Epworth Richmond Hospitals, VIC; A/Prof Martin Borg, Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare, SA; Dr Lisa Briggs, Consumer; Kirsten Mooney, Thoracic Cancer Nurse Coordinator, WA Cancer & Palliative Care Network, WA; Claire Mulvihill, Lung Cancer Support Nurse, Lung Foundation Australia; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; A/Prof Nick Pavlakis, President, Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group, President Elect, Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, and Senior Staff Specialist, Department of Medical Oncology, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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