Lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer mortality. Individuals who currently have an advanced form of non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of lung cancer, are treated by way of various chemotherapy drugs.
If this treatment approach fails to work, individuals are generally treated with a single agent. Lead author, Hossein Borghaei, explains that he and his colleagues are seeking a new option.
The drug they are exploring is known as nivolumab – a monoclonal antibody that targets the immune system’s reaction to the disease. Nivolumab works by targeting the pathway protecting the tumor from the immune system.
According to Borghaei, consuming nivolumab can be compared to removing the brakes from the immune system, thus allowing the body’s own immune system to detect the tumor as foreign and attack it.
Different negative side effects occur with nivolumab than would be expected with chemotherapy agents. This is due to the drugs effect on the immune system. These adverse effects can include inflammation of the colon and thyroid inflammation.
Currently, two phase III trials of nivolumab are underway to further evaluate the drug’s effects. The researchers intend to compare the drug’s efficacy against docetaxel, another commonly used chemotherapy drug, in lung cancer patients who have not responded to other treatments.
The trials are still in progress and will examine several hundred patients around the world. The human studies will be completed following several years, according to researchers.
Borghaei concludes, "Every drug patients get now was once experimental. There are a lot of new drugs for lung cancer being investigated, so a lot of reason to feel hopeful that new therapies are on the horizon. But the only way this will happen is if patients participate in experimental trials."
Written by Stuart Diamond