Immunotherapy for Lung cancer

Immunotherapy is an effective therapy that has become available recently for lung cancer patients in Kent area and the whole UK.

What is Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps our immune system fight cancer. One reason that cancer cells grow and spread within our body is that they are able to hide from our immune system. Some immunotherapy can mark cancer cells so it is easier for the immune system to find and destroy them. Other immunotherapy boosts our immune system to work better against cancer.

Immunotherapy is not yet as widely used as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, immunotherapy has been approved to treat people with many types of cancer including Lung cancer in Europe and the UK. Many immunotherapy studies and clinical trials are currently available for patients with lung cancer in the UK. Immunotherapy for lung cancer in Kent area has become routinely available for NHS patients and privately.

How is Immunotherapy given?

Most immunotherapy used for Lung cancer are given intravenously in two or three weekly cycles.  A cycle is the day of treatment followed by a period of rest. The rest period gives the body a chance to recover, respond to the immunotherapy, and build new healthy cells.

Who is it for?

It is suitable for patients who have advanced, metastatic or stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer who have a certain protein on their cancer cells called PDL-1. Although immunotherapy is not a curative treatment, it is expected to prolong patients’ life significantly.

Is Immunotherapy safe?

Immunotherapy is usually considered better tolerated than chemotherapy but can still cause side effects, which affect people in different ways. The most common side effects are:

  • Skin reactions (Rash)
  • Flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, weakness, muscle or joint aches and headache)

Less common but more serious side effects are:

  • Pneumonitis: (shortness of breath and cough)
  • Kidney damage
  • Underactive or overactive Thyroid gland

All side effects and how to manage them will be discussed in more details in clinics with the treating oncologists.

If you want to read more about immunotherapy drugs in common use, please click on the following links (Links will open in a new window):

Pembrolizumab

Nivolumab