All about lung cancer and how to treat it
Did you know that lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States? Each year, 225,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the U.S. alone.
Most major forms of lung cancer primarily respond to therapy. These forms can be categorized as non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. Both categories respond differently to therapy and are therefore categorized separately. We spoke with Dr. Chris Rhoades, an oncologist at Mercy Health St. Rita’s Cancer Center, to learn more about types of lung cancer and the innovative treatments being used to fight them.
Types of lung cancer and treatment
Small-cell lung cancer tends to be more responsive to radiation and/or chemotherapy treatment. The primary form of therapy for early-stage lung cancer is surgical resection, the removal of an organ or gland. Radiation and/or chemotherapy may also be involved in the therapy of early-stage lung cancer, Dr. Rhoades said.
In stage IV lung cancer, the tumor has grown to areas outside of the lung or chest. Stage IV can be treatable but it is usually not curable with aggressive therapy. Patients diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer need a form of chemotherapy treatment.
“There have been some dramatic changes in the options of therapy for advanced stage IV lung cancer,” said Dr. Rhoades. “New options have paved the way for an increase in pace for advanced lung cancer treatments.”
Lung cancer and immunotherapy treatment
One of the new FDA-approved treatments for lung cancer is immunotherapy. According to Dr. Rhoades, “Immunotherapy is the most exciting area of development and treatment.”
Approximately 80 percent of all forms of lung cancer are non-small cell lung cancer, and the FDA has recently approved several new immunotherapy options for treatment. Immunotherapy differs when compared to more conventional chemotherapy treatment. Standard chemotherapies are aimed at controlling rapidly dividing cancer cells, while immunotherapy is the use of medicines to stimulate a person’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively.
Immunotherapies treatment has three effects: Helping the patient’s immune system identify cancer as being foreign to the body, aiding the immune system’s responsiveness against cancer and decreasing the inhibition of the immune system that allows for tumor cell growth. The new treatment options are still considered palliative therapy. But, they represent a significant advance in the fight against lung cancer.
“With further research and clinical trials, scientists hope to develop more treatment,” Dr. Rhoades said. “Their hope is to develop long-term survival treatments that will be considered a curative therapy.”
Immunotherapy is being used to treat other forms of cancer as well. The development of this treatment has been possible thanks to increased research. Researching individual characteristics of cancers has led to an increase in potential treatment options for lung cancer patients. In the future, most forms of cancer will be identified with molecular and genetic codes. These codes will lead to specific therapies for each individual diagnosed.
“The development of immunotherapy is only the beginning,” Dr. Rhoades said. “Immunotherapy has created an exciting time in cancer research and personalized cancer care.”
Dr. Chris Rhoades is a medical oncologist at Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Cancer Center. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Rhoades, call 419-226-9518. If you are not in the Lima region and are looking for innovative cancer treatment close to home, visit mercy.com to find a doctor near you today.