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Non Small Cell: What is Immune Therapy?

Non Small Cell: What is Immune Therapy?

December 14, 2021
Sanjay Juneja, MD
Sanjay Juneja, MD

Medical Oncology

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One of the biggest treatments that have helped us with non-small cell lung cancer in a stage four setting is immunotherapy. And the first immunotherapy that came out was pembrolizumab in 2015, but we have had several agents come out since then. This immune therapy is unique because instead of poisoning the cell directly, it uses or recruits and mobilizes your own immune cells, your lymphocytes, to attack the tumor for you. This has changed the game in lung cancer to a significant degree. For the most part, if you’re a stage four metastatic lung cancer, and you need to reduce the amount of cancer you have as quickly as possible, you will usually combine cytotoxic chemotherapy, which is the traditional chemotherapy we’ve used for decades, plus immune therapy. You get four to six cycles, and then if you had a good response, you just keep a maintenance of control on that cancer with immune therapy. This is triple therapy, and that’s generally, probably the most likely way to proceed with your non-small cell lung cancer, provided you have a good performance status and are active and not sitting or sleeping or laying down for over half the day.