Research & Education

Another Significant Drug Approval for Lung Cancer Immunotherapy Treatment

October 14, 2015


Contact: Jeff Wolf                                                                                                  Becky Bunn                                          
IASLC Director of Communications                                                                   IASLC Projects Specialist            | 720-325-2952                                                    | 720-325-2946       


Another Significant Drug Approval for Lung Cancer Immunotherapy Treatment
IASLC Recognizes the Speed and Promise of Rapid Scientific Research

DENVER, Colo. – The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) recognizes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval for another lung cancer immunotherapy agent (the second in two weeks) as a positive sign in the rapidly advancing science of lung cancer treatment. The last week the FDA approved nivolumab (Opdivo) to treat patients with advanced (metastatic) non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose disease progressed during or after platinum-based chemotherapy. This is an extended approval of the use for nivolumab, as it was approved in March 2015 for squamous NSCLC in the same setting.

“Lung cancer science is progressing more rapidly than ever,” said Dr. Fred R. Hirsch, Professor of Medicine and Pathology at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and School of Medicine and CEO of the IASLC. “The more tools oncologists have, the better their success. The addition of nivolumab in the non-squamous NSCLC toolbox represents a potential for significant better outcomes for many patients with advanced NSCLC, even if they have failed previous chemotherapy.”

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Every year, lung cancer causes more than 1.6 million deaths; more deaths than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. Doctors diagnose the majority of lung cancer cases (~60 percent) after the disease has already spread to distant areas, which makes the disease more difficult to treat. However, new types of treatments, including specific targeted and immunotherapies show promise in increasing life expectancy for many lung cancer patients.

“Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer,” Dr. Hirsch continued. “The expanded approval of this immunotherapy means patients with adenocarcinoma and other non-squamous NSCLC have another option if their disease does not respond to or progresses after first-line treatment.”

Nivolumab is an antibody that targets PD-1 and works by blocking the cellular interaction between PD-1 and PD-L1 (proteins found on the body’s immune cells and some cancer cells). By blocking this signaling pathway, nivolumab stimulates activation of immune cells and helps the body’s immune system eliminate cancer cells.

“To see the approval of so many new treatments for lung cancer so rapidly is very encouraging,” Dr. Hirsch said. “Each day, science brings us closer to finding ways to make lung cancer a treatable, chronic disease.”

For more information about nivolumab, visit the FDA’s website.


About the IASLC
The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) is the only global organization dedicated to the study of lung cancer. Founded in 1974, the association's membership includes more than 4,000 lung cancer specialists in over 90 countries. Visit for more information.