November 29, 2018
Even though lung cancer is a dangerous and devastating cancer to have, it is not devastating if caught early. The five year survival rate (the percentage of people who will be alive five years past their diagnosis date) for all people with all types of lung cancer is 18 percent. The rate for men is 15 percent and the rate for women is 21 percent. These figures are very low but they are higher if caught early. Depending on how early lung cancer is detected, the five year survival rate for stage I lung cancer (cancer that has not spread to nearby tissue) can be anywhere from 68 to 92 percent. For stage II and stage III cancers (larger cancers or tumors that have grown more deeply into tissues and may have spread into lymph nodes), the five year survival rate can be anywhere from 53 to 60 percent for stage II and 13 to 36 percent for stage III. For stage IV lung cancer (spread outside the area where it started) the survival rate is one percent.
To treat lung cancer, the typical cancer treatments are used. Since there are different stages and prognoses for lung cancer there are different types of surgery for it as well. A lobectomy can be performed, where an entire lobe of the right lung’s three lobes or the left lung’s two lobes is removed. A segmentectomy can be performed if a lobectomy cannot be done, where cancerous tissue is removed from a lung segment. Finally a pneumonectomy can be performed as a last resort, where an entire lung is removed. Other treatments can be done including chemotherapy to shrink and kill cancerous growths, radiation to kill cancer with high energy rays, and targeted therapy to block the growth and spread of cancer cells. One targeted therapy drug is called Erlotinib, which can benefit some people with lung cancer. It blocks the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) on cell’s surfaces. The EGFR acts as a doorway for substances that encourage a cancer cell to grow and spread. A different type of targeted therapy drug called Bevacizumab stops the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). This prevents tumors from growing new blood vessels, preventing them from being fed.
Immunotherapy is another innovative way to treat lung cancer. It is still being tested but has promising results for people with lung cancer. A drug called Keytruda is one example that helps the immune system detect and fight cancer cells. This makes it hard for cancer to hide from the immune system like it typically does. T cells in the body detect foreign threats to the body and fight them off but some cancer cells are able to escape detection if they have a protein called PD-L1, which stops the immune system from attacking. This happens when PD-L1 attaches to a protein called PD-1, which deactivates the T cells. Keytruda blocks the interaction between PD-L1 and PD-1, letting the immune system destroy the tumor. According to Merck, the maker of Keytruda, the risk of death from lung cancer is reduced by half when using Keytruda and chemotherapy versus using chemotherapy alone. With these results there is hope for lung cancer patients who now have a real chance of survival.
If you would like to help with lung cancer research click here to be taken to the Lung Cancer Research Foundation’s donate page.
Jamie Reno, “Keytruda Performs Well in Latest Lung Cancer Clinical Trials” Healthline (April 20, 2018). [Link]
“Lung Cancer – Non-Small Cell: Statistics” Cancer.net (January, 2018). [Link]
“Lung Cancer – Non-Small Cell: Treatment Options” Cancer.net (August, 2017). [Link]
“Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment” lungcancer.org [Link]
Rachel Rettner, “A New Lung Cancer Drug Is Shaking Up Treatment: How Does It Work?” Live Science (April 17, 2018). [Link]
“Stages of Cancer” Cancer.net (March, 2018) [Link]
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