Lung Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. These abnormal cells do not carry out the functions of normal lung cells and do not develop into healthy lung tissue. As they grow, the abnormal cells can form tumors and interfere with the functioning of the lung, which provides oxygen to the body via the blood.
Treatment for lung cancer includes the following modalities, alone or in combination:
Treatment for non-small cell lung cancer: Most stage I and stage II non-small cell lung cancers are treatable with surgical resection of the tumor. Chemotherapy is usually given before surgery to shrink the tumor, or after surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy) to prevent reoccurrence.
For more advanced cancers that cannot be removed surgically, chemotherapy is often given in combination with radiation treatment. Among the drugs most commonly used are cisplatin or carboplatin plus docetaxel, gemcitabine, paclitaxel, vinorelbine, or pemetrexed.
Targeted therapies that are designed to kill cancer cells and preserve healthy cells can be added to the treatment plans. Significant developments in the area of targeted therapies have changed the treatment paradigm for NSCLC. New drugs targeting EGFR, EML4-ALK, and ROS-1 mutations have provided new therapeutic options for patients.
Erlotinib (Tarceva): erlotinib is a targeted therapy that blocks a specific kind of receptor on the cell surface, the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) hindering cancer growth.
Bevacizumab (Avastin): bevacizumab blocks the growth of blood vessels that the cancer needs to grow by targeting vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).
Crizotinib (Xalkori): crizotinib targets the mutated ALK biomarker, decreasing cancer cell growth.
Immunotherapy for non small cell lung cancer: immunotherapy differs from traditional chemotherapy, which primarily targets rapidly dividing cells, and from targeted therapies, which interfere with key molecular events in tumor cells that drive tumor growth and invasion.
The aims of immunotherapy are to aid in the recognition of cancer as foreign by the immune system and to activate the host immune system to destroy the malignancies. In non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a variety of immunotherapy treatments, including nonspecific immune stimulants, vaccines and checkpoint inhibitors, are currently being evaluated in clinical trials and may be treatment options.
Treatment for small cell lung cancer: chemotherapy is the usually an essential part of treatment programs for small cell lung cancer. Chemotherapy regimes, such as etoposide plus cisplatin, or sarboplatin plus irinotecan, are often given with or without radiation treatment.
If no preventive measures are taken, about half SCLC cancers will spread to the brain. Radiation therapy to the head (prophylactic cranial irradiation, or PCI) is often used to prevent spread to the brain.
Targeted therapies: therapies, which target specific mutations within and between lung cancer cells, include epidermal growth factor (EGRF) inhibitors, anti-angiogenesis therapies, and monoclonal antibodies. These emerging treatment modalities target these mutations to arrest cancer growth.