Lung Cancer Medications
New lung cancer medications offer hope for people who’ve been diagnosed with this serious and fatal condition. Although lung cancer is often the result of smoking, even healthy lungs can develop cancer. Surgery to remove cancerous tissues in the early stages of lung cancer is by far the best chance for a patient to be cured—that’s why it is so important for people at risk of lung cancer to see their doctors for regular exams. Beyond surgery, the usual treatments for lung cancer include radiation therapy and chemotherapy. In addition to the traditional treatments, more and more breakthroughs are being discovered in the medical world, and now patients can benefit from recently approved medications. Read on to learn more about these new treatment options that are helping people in various stages of lung cancer.
The first medicinal treatment on our list, Opdivo, was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Also known as nivolumabuses, this medication uses the immune system to attack difficult-to-treat lung cancers. While the body does not usually recognize tumors as harmful, Opdivo turns the immune system against the cancer cells in order to fight the tumor. The effects of this can potentially reduce the tumor in size or make the tumor disappear altogether. Though it doesn’t target the tumor itself like chemotherapy and radiation therapy, Opdivo supports the immune system so it can recognize cancer cells much easier. When used in combination with treatments that target cancer, it can be incredibly effective in diminishing cancer more efficiently.
Another drug called Gilotrif, or afatinib, can potentially treat late-stage cancer. It is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that blocks proteins which promote the growth of cancer cells. It is specifically for people with genetic mutations in their epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene that can grow cancer cells faster than others. Around 10% of lung cancer patients are affected by this mutated gene.
Lastly, a targeted therapy drug called Avastin is currently approved for colorectal cancer, but has also shown success in lung cancer treatment. Targeted therapy drugs attack certain mechanisms in the body which allow cancer cells to grow. One downside to chemotherapy has always been its side effects due to the targeting of healthy cells on top of cancer cells, but since Avastin does not target cells indiscriminately, it causes fewer side effects.
Despite these advancements in treatments, prevention remains the best policy. Unfortunately, in the early stages of lung cancer, typically there are no signs or symptoms. Only until later, does lung cancer produce symptoms which will need immediate attention. Individuals with lung cancer will typically have a cough that doesn’t seem to go away and they may even cough up a small amount of blood. They may also experience chest pain, wheezing and shortness of breath. Those with lung cancer may experience pain in their bones or a headache. Additionally, a great deal of weight loss may occur. If you have any of these symptoms or are concerned about lung cancer, hope is not lost. Seek a doctor as soon as possible to get a diagnosis and begin treatment.