Drug therapy for stage III lung cancer include chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy is designed to help your body’s own immune system recognize and kill the cancer cells or stop their growth
This is the same immune system that helps you to fight infections such as the flu. Your immune system has immune cells that patrol your body looking for things that may cause you to get sick. In the same way, these immunes cells patrol for cancer cells.
However some cancer cells can outsmart the immune cells into thinking that they are healthy cells so they continue to grow undetected. Immunotherapy helps your body to recognize the cancer cells as foreign and harmful.
Immunotherapy works with your body to help to destroy the cancer cells.
Immunotherapy (IO) is a very different type of treatment from chemotherapy. While chemoradiation kills cancer cells directly, immunotherapy helps the body’s own natural defense system (the immune system) become better at detecting and destroying cancer cells. Treatment with immunotherapy will be longer, but less intensive than Part 1, which means that you will only have a treatment once every two or three weeks. Treatment is administered as an infusion for 1 year. This is a very different therapy, and you will feel better than you did during chemoradiation.
Completing Part 2
Completing Part 2 of your treatment program with immunotherapy will improve the chances that your body will launch a strong response to the cancer and may help you live longer than with chemoradiation alone.
Benefits of Immunotherapy Treatment Versus No Additional Treatment
A large clinical trial looked at survival for patients who continued treatment with durvalumab versus those who did not. This clinical trial involved 709 patients with stage III, unresectable lung cancer whose disease did not progress on chemoradiation.1, 2
Patients who were treated with chemoradiation + immunotherapy survived longer than the patients who stopped treatment after chemoradiation.
Three-year survival estimates
Of patients who were treated with chemoradiation + immunotherapy, 57.0% were alive at 3 years, as compared to 43.5% who were alive from the group that was treated with chemoradiation alone.
If 100 people are treated with chemoradiation + immunotherapy, 14 more people will be alive at 3 years after diagnosis of stage III lung cancer vs treatment with chemoradiation alone.
What to expect: Possible side-effects of immunotherapy
Side-effects can occur at any time during or after your treatment. Not all patients will experience all side effects, and some patients may only experience minimal effects.
Adapted from materials in the 2019 CCCEP Accredited Community Immuno-Oncology Support Kit (CIOSK) Education Initiative. Accessed December 2019.
What to expect: Possible benefits of immunotherapy
Treatment with chemoradiation + immunotherapy is an effective treatment program that delays disease progression and helps patients live longer.
Immunotherapy improves the chances that you your body will launch a strong response to the cancer and may help you live longer than with chemoradiation alone.
The benefits of continuing your treatment journey with immunotherapy can include:
- Improving your quality of life and day-to-day activities3
- Limiting the cancer from spreading
- Living longer
- Transitioning from side-effects of chemoradiation
For additional resources, please click on the icons below to access the CIOSK Patient Symptom Diary and an Interactive Survey considering the benefits and risks of immunotherapy.