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Immune therapy drugs can transform the treatment of lung cancer, giving patients extra years of life, they reported on Monday
They found that patients with lung cancer before treatment with drugs Immune therapy before they undergo surgery can help melt the tumor and at the same time limit or even stop its spread.
And combinations of immunotherapy drugs have helped other patients with lung cancer to
The results are so surprising that it is likely that each lung cancer patient will first be given the option of immunotherapy, said Dr. Roy Herbst, a lung cancer specialist at Yale University who was not involved in the studies.  "I had never seen progress move so fast," Herbst told NBC News.
"Today's results are really a paradigm shift, they will mean that more patients with lung cancer will receive immunotherapy in advance."
Immunotherapy helps the body's immune system fight cancer through a variety of mechanisms: by increasing the activity of the immune system, by digging up tumor cells and by using immune system proteins designed very specifically for tumors.
They include the new class of drugs that seem to have stagnated the melanoma of former President Jimmy Carter.
It was shown that drugs help lung cancer, the number 1 cause of cancer death worldwide and in the United States.
And the new findings, published at a conference of the American Association for Cancer Research in Chicago and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, show that more creative use of medications could change the way doctors treat lung cancer.
In one study, a team at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine treated 21 patients with one of the immune therapy drugs before undergoing surgery to remove lung cancer. the rumors. One year later, 16 patients were alive and the cancer was still undetected.
Three died of cancer and one died of a head injury unrelated to cancer.
"I've never seen progress move so fast."
"I never saw progress move so fast."
It was a small study, but it shows that immunotherapy drugs can help patients right away, Herbst said. So far, because the drugs are new, they are usually used more in patients with advanced cancer.
The immunotherapy drug – in this case it was called Opdivo – begins to kill the tumor by breaking it, releasing small pieces that stimulate a broad immune response.
"When surgeons open up patients, they see that the tumor almost melts – that's extraordinary," Herbst said.
"He eats it like a Pac-man, probably creating a roller coaster of immune response."
These newly activated immune cells can move through the body, attacking small pieces of tumor that can cause metastasis, said Herbst.
"It's amazing news for patients with this disease," he said.
The news is not entirely good. Not all patients are helped by medications and they are very expensive, costing more than $ 100,000 for a treatment.
And nobody can say how long these patients will live before their cancer comes back. "I do not use the term cure until you survive for 10 years," said Dr. Drew Pardoll of Johns Hopkins, who led the study that used pretreatment of immune therapy.
In another study, combinations of immunotherapy drugs with standard chemotherapy doubled survival in patients with lung cancer.
Dr. Leena Gandhi of the Perlmutter Cancer Center in NYU Langone Health and her colleagues treated more than 600 patients with lung cancer with standard chemotherapy plus placebo or Keytruda, one of the immunotherapy drugs.
"They gave me four months to live and I'm still here."
"They gave me four months to live and I'm still here."
Those who received Keytruda plus chemotherapy were 51 percent less likely to die than those who simply received chemotherapy, Gandhi's team reported. About 69 percent of patients who received Keytruda were alive one year later, while only 49 percent of those who received chemotherapy alone.
"Just a few years ago, it was rare for patients with advanced lung cancer to live beyond the age of 2. It is now increasingly common to live beyond that point even with advanced lung cancer," said Dr. John Heymach, who chairs the lung cancer division at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas.
"Advanced lung cancer is no longer a death sentence for these patients"
The combination of Keytruda-chemotherapy was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year.
Another study team tried to combine two immunotherapy drugs: Keytruda and Yervoy.
Dr. Matthew Hellmann of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and colleagues found that 43 percent of patients who received the combination had an extra year of life without the cancer getting worse, compared to 13 percent of those who received standard chemotherapy.
The society projects around 234,030 new cases of lung cancer in the United States this year, and about 154,050 Americans will die because of it.
Donna Fernández de Rowlette, Texas, is alive thanks to immune therapy for her lung cancer. She was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer at the age of 59 and thought she was doomed because her father died of lung cancer.
Fernández, 64, tried chemotherapy and hated it. "Chemotherapy is not for weak hearts," he told NBC News.
"There was a time when I thought maybe it was not worth it anymore," he said.
"I was only sick for one" week outside the three-week cycle. But that week was horrible. I vomited and the fatigue is simply unreal. "
Then, in 2013, Fernández was treated with Opdivo.
" It was like night and day, "he said." I could go back to almost my usual activities again. I was never sick. "
Fernandez is using her extra time to advocate for lung cancer research and enjoy time with her 43-year-old husband, son and 88-year-old mother.
" I was given four months to live and here I still am, "he said.