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 recognise and attack the 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 currently being tested in clinical trials for lung cancer, including using a combination of these drugs.
Checkpoint inhibitors do not work for all lung cancers, but some people have had good results in the short and long term. Your medical oncologist will discuss which treatment approach is best for you.
The side effects of immunotherapy drugs are different to those caused by chemotherapy or targeted therapy. Immunotherapy can cause inflammation of any body organ, which may lead to different side effects depending on which part of the body is 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.
A/Prof Nick Pavlakis, President, Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group, President, Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, and Senior Staff Specialist, Department of Medical Oncology, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Dr Naveed Alam, Thoracic Surgeon, St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne, VIC; Prof Kwun Fong, Thoracic and Sleep Physician and Director, UQ Thoracic Research Centre, The Prince Charles Hospital, and Professor of Medicine, The University of Queensland, QLD; Renae Grundy, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Lung, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; A/Prof Brian Le, Director, Palliative Care, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre – Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and The Royal Melbourne Hospital, and The University Of Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Margot Lehman, Senior Radiation Oncologist and Director, Radiation Oncology, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Susana Lloyd, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Nicole Parkinson, Lung Cancer Support Nurse, Lung Foundation Australia.
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