New Treatments Changing Future of Lung Cancer

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


New Treatments Changing Future of Lung Cancer
Immunotherapy Give Many Patients New Hope for Improved Survival

DENVER – During November’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month, the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) wants to highlight the importance of immunotherapy, a form of personalized medicine and a groundbreaking tool in the fight against lung cancer.

Immunotherapy for patients with advanced lung cancer has demonstrated very encouraging results, particularly in patients, who have failed first line therapy and is today a “hot topic” in cancer treatment because its benefits change the game for patients. While the survival rate for many lung cancer still remains low, new targeted therapies and immunotherapies have the ability to change those statistics. Patients who respond poorly to standard chemotherapy now have more options. Most recently two immunotherapy drugs were approved by the U.S. FDA for lung cancer therapy after failure of previous given therapy.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths throughout the world: it causes more than 1.6 million deaths globally every year; more than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. Doctors diagnose the majority of cases (~60 percent) after the lung cancer has spread to other areas of the body, making it more difficult to treat. However, for the first time in many decades, specific targeted therapies and immunotherapy treatment are providing new hope.

Four Major Immunotherapy Drugs:

Nivolumab (Opdivo®):

This drug targets PD-1. Following the results of CheckMate 017, a clinical trial, the FDA first approved it in March 2015 for use against squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Based on results from CheckMate 057, the FDA recently expanded its use for non-squamous NSCLC.

Pembrolizumab (Keytruda®):
This drug targets PD-1. The FDA recently granted accelerated approval for its use in patients with advanced NSCLC. However, it is only for patients with tumors that express PD-L1. More clinical trials are ongoing.

This drug targets PD-L1. The FDA recently granted breakthrough status and clinical trials are in progress.

This drug targets PD-L1. This drug is still in clinical trials but shows promise for helping more patients in the future.

What is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy activates a part of the patient’s immune system to fight cancer, helping it to work better to destroy cancer cells. The idea is that immunotherapy can stop or slow the growth of cancer cells and keep cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. Treatments can do this by stimulating the immune system to attack cancer cells.

This process starts with PD-1 (Programmed Cell Death 1), a protein that normally suppress the function of T-lymphocytes, a type of immune cell that can kill other cells, including tumor cells. Tumors evade death by T cells by expressing PD-L1 (Programmed Death Ligand 1), which deactivates T cells by binding to PD-1 on the surface of the T cells. Immunotherapy treatments can target either PD-1 or PD-L1, which blocks the tumor from suppressing T cells, thus allowing activated T cells to kill the tumor.

Thanks to results from several studies, more patients are now able to get these treatments than ever before. The U.S. FDA recently expanded the use of nivolumab and gave accelerated approval for pembrolizumab. Both of these therapies target PD-1. Other drugs, such as atezolizumab and durvalumab, focus on PD-L1.

“Immunotherapy can mean a new future for lung cancer patients around the world,” 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. “These treatments can add months and years to a patient’s life and the IALSC hopes that doctors and patients worldwide have access to up-to-date information about immunotherapy and its benefits.”

For more information on Lung Cancer Awareness Month, please visit and read our lung cancer fact sheets which provide crucial information about the disease and the work to conquer it worldwide. We also have experts from around the globe ready to discuss a variety of topics, including personalized medicine, tobacco control, prevention, lung cancer screening and patient advocacy. Please reach out to the IASLC through Director of Communications Jeff Wolf or Projects Specialist Becky Bunn.

About the IASLC:

The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) is the only global organization specifically dedicated to the study of lung cancer. Founded in 1974, the association's membership includes nearly 4,000 lung cancer specialists in 80 countries. For more information, visit:



November 10, 2015