Immunotherapy for lung cancer
This is a type of drug treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.
Learn more about:
When is immunotherapy used?
Immunotherapy drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors block proteins, such as PD-L1, that stop immune cells from recognising and destroying the cancer cells. Once the proteins are blocked, the immune cells can potentially recognise and attack the lung cancer.
Several checkpoint inhibitors have been approved for most types of advanced NSCLC. One has also been approved for extensive-stage SCLC when it is used together with chemotherapy. Several other checkpoint inhibitors are being tested in clinical trials for lung cancer, including using a combination of these drugs.
Immunotherapy may be used alone or with chemotherapy as a palliative treatment, or after chemoradiation. In the future, immunotherapy may be used for early-stage NSCLC, either before or after surgery.
Checkpoint inhibitors do not work for all types of lung cancer, but some people have had good results. Ask your oncologist about molecular testing and whether immunotherapy may be an option for you.
Immunotherapy can cause inflammation throughout the body, which leads to different side effects depending on which part of the body becomes inflamed.
Common side effects include:
- painful joints
Most people have mild side effects that can be treated easily and usually improve.
Let your medical team know if you have new or worsening symptoms. If left untreated, some side effects can become serious and may even be life-threatening. For a detailed list of side effects, visit eviq.org.au.
For more on this, see our general section on Immunotherapy.
Video: What is immunotherapy?
Learn more about targeted therapy and immunotherapy in this short video.
Podcast: Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy
A/Prof Brett Hughes, Senior Staff Specialist Medical Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, The Prince Charles Hospital and The University of Queensland, QLD; Dr Brendan Dougherty, Respiratory and Sleep Medicine Specialist, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Kim Greco, Nurse Consultant – Lung Cancer, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Dr Susan Harden, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Rohit Joshi, Medical Oncologist, GenesisCare and Lyell McEwin Hospital, Director, Cancer Research SA; Kathlene Robson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council ACT; Peter Spolc, Consumer; Nicole Taylor, Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Rosemary Taylor, Consumer; A/Prof Gavin M Wright, Director of Surgical Oncology, St Vincent’s Hospital and Research and Education Lead – Lung Cancer, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, VIC.
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