New clinical trial can help lung cancer patients

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women.

Treating it was a huge challenge.

But now a treatment that has existed for decades has been used in a new way and the results so far are encouraging.

George Grace is an accomplished artist. In March 2016 he was diagnosed with stage one lung cancer, but was not long gone from his studio, thanks to an old therapy that was used in a new way.

"I had the cancer therapy." The next month I was back, exactly as I did, "Grace said.

Grace is part of a clinical trial that tests a treatment that was first used in the 1970s.

It is called photodynamic therapy. Researchers are now looking at whether it will help fight the most common form of lung cancer called non-small cell lung cancer.

"I now live two years later and until now, cancer free," Grace said.

The treatment uses a special chemical that reacts to a combination of laser light and oxygen.

"Immediately after the operation is completed, we do this PDT, photodynamic therapy in the area, so if there are small cells that you can not see with the naked eye, this PDT can remove those cells that kill those cells," said Dr. Chumy. Nwogu, thoracic surgeon at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Doctor Nwogu leads the trial and he says that PDT can be especially useful for patients diagnosed in phase two or three.

"There is a very high risk in those patients to leave microscopic diseases behind, so those are the patients who will really benefit from it," Nwogu said.

Dr. Nwogu is cautiously optimistic. George Grace does not say a word about his feelings.

"This clinical trial saved my life," Grace said.

PDT is an additional therapy that is used alone or in combination with chemotherapy and radiation.

REPORT # 2556

BACKGROUND: Lung cancer (both small and non-small cells) is the second most common cancer in both men and women. In men prostate cancer is more common, in women breast cancer is more common. About 14 percent of all new cancers are lung cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates about 234,030 new cases of lung cancer in the United States before 2018 and about 154,050 deaths from lung cancer. Most people with lung cancer are 65 or older, while a very small number of people younger than 45 are diagnosed. The average age at the time of the diagnosis is about 70. Statistics on survival in people with lung cancer vary depending on the stage of the cancer when it is diagnosed. Despite the very serious prognosis of lung cancer, some people with earlier stage cancers have been cured. More than 430,000 people living today have lung cancer diagnosed at one point.

LUNG CANCER AND PDT: Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is a procedure whereby a special chemical is injected into the bloodstream. The chemical is absorbed by all cells, but does not stay long in normal cells. It remains for a while in cancer cells and a laser aimed at the cancer activates the chemical to kill the cancer cells. PDT is approved for relief of symptoms (such as respiratory problems or bleeding) in non-small cell lung cancer and can also treat small tumors. Photosensitizers have a tendency to accumulate in tumors and the activating light is directed at the tumor. As a result, damage to healthy tissue is minimal. However, PDT can cause burns, swelling, pain and scarring in the nearby healthy tissue. Other side effects of PDT are related to the area being treated. They may include coughing, difficulty in swallowing, stomach pain, painful breathing or shortness of breath; these side effects are usually temporary. Researchers continue to study ways to improve the effectiveness of PDT and to extend it to other cancers. Clinical trials are underway to evaluate the use of PDT for cancers of the brain, skin, prostate, cervix and peritoneal cavity.
(Source: and fact-sheet)

NEW TREATMENT INCREASES SURVIVAL TIME: Medicines designed to activate the immune system of a patient can help increase the chances of survival of lung cancer patients. The first study showed that when the immunotherapy drug, Keytruda (pembrolizumab), was combined with standard chemotherapy, the chance that a patient would die within the next 11 months fell by more than 50 percent compared to chemotherapy alone. The combination treatment also reduced the risk that the cancer would spread almost as much, according to NYU Langone Health's research team in New York City. In the same vein another team of researchers gave patients with lung cancer in the diagnosis or a combination of the immunotherapy medication Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilimumab) or standard chemotherapy. Those on the two immunotherapy drugs were 42 percent less likely to see their disease increase after a year. "Chemotherapy continues to be the standard of care for the majority of lung cancer patients, and is a very poor standard," Dr. Leena Gandhi, director of Langone's Thoracic Medical Oncology Program at the Perlmutter Cancer Center. In most cases, chemo prolongs life with just a year or even less. But the combination approach "resulted in a marked improvement in response, progression-free survival and overall survival in all patients," she said.

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