Immunotherapy Approved for Lung Cancer Patients

For several years now, cancer patients have read and heard about the potential power of immunotherapy, but have been largely unable to receive these types of treatments as they were still in research and development. At this year’s Annual Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, in a special session, a doctor presented an incredibly successful immunotherapy trial known as CheckMate 057.

This trial involved patients with non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer. The results – an overall survival rate improvement of eight to eleven months –signify a new standard of care for lung cancer patients throughout the country. Our team of lung cancer lawyers reports on the CheckMate 057 trial and its implications for those fighting cancer.

The CheckMate trial compared the drug nivolumab with a chemotherapy drug called docetaxel in lung cancer patients who had previously received treatment. The presenting doctor stood before a packed and hushed auditorium; it quickly became clear that this trial was not simply another “wait and see,” study. This was something doctors could bring back to their patients, to give them another chance to live longer than they would have with chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.

These three treatments, chemo, radiation and surgery, have been the standard of care for decades. Patients diagnosed with early-stage cancers can often be cured by surgery, by removing all of the cancerous tumors. Those with later-stage cancers are often prescribed chemotherapy and radiation, not to cure their disease, but to hopefully lengthen the amount of time they have left and lessen the severity of the disease.

An Independent Data Monitoring Committee unanimously declared nivolumab superior in overall survival versus docetaxel. Side effects were also noticeably less severe in patients receiving nivolumab over the other drug – severe adverse events occurred in just 10% of nivolumab patients, compared to 54% of docetaxel patients. Therefore, nivolumab not only contributes to better survival, but is substantially less toxic.

The promise of immunotherapy has been on the horizon for quite a while. This type of treatment aims to unleash the power of our body’s natural immune system to fight off and kill cancer cells. Lung cancer is among the leading cancer types targeted for immunotherapy.

The FDA approved nivolumab (brand name Opdivo) in March 2015. Several other immunotherapy lung cancer drugs have shown promise, and can be broken down into four main categories:

  1. Therapeutic vaccines
  2. Adoptive T cell transfer
  3. Monoclonal antibodies
  4. Checkpoint inhibitors

It is important to note that there are several immunotherapy drugs in development for mesothelioma as well.

Mesothelioma Immunotherapy

In another presentation at the Annual Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, doctors presented a combination drug that improved survival in patients with pleural mesothelioma. These doctors added the drug bevacizumab to chemotherapy.

Tremelimumab is also currently being tested as a treatment for mesothelioma, targeting the CTLA-4 molecule to enhance anti-cancer immune cells. There are several other drugs from all four categories of immunotherapy drugs in development. More information on these drugs and clinical trials can be found here, on the Cancer Research Institute website.

Our team of lung cancer and mesothelioma attorneys will continue to report on practice-changing data as soon as information is available. We offer a free mesothelioma booklet, 100 Questions & Answers About Mesothelioma, to anyone with questions or concerns about this devastating disease. We ship the book completely free, nationwide. Please visit our main site, here, and simply fill out the contact form on the right of your screen to receive your free book.

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