Cancer without chemotherapy: "A totally different world"

When Dr. Roy Herbst of Yale started in oncology about 25 years ago, almost all patients with advanced lung cancer received chemotherapy. ...


When Dr. Roy Herbst of Yale started in oncology about 25 years ago, almost all patients with advanced lung cancer received chemotherapy.

With chemotherapy, he said, “patients would be sure to have one thing: side effects.” Yet despite treatment, most tumors continued to grow and spread. Less than half of his patients would be alive a year later. The five-year survival rate was only 5-10 percent.

These dismal statistics barely budged until 2010, when targeted therapies began to emerge. There are now nine such drugs for lung cancer patients, three of which have been approved since May of this year. About a quarter of lung cancer patients can be treated with these drugs alone, and more than half of those who started treatment with a targeted drug five years ago are still alive. The five-year survival rate for patients with advanced lung cancer is now approaching 30%.

But the drugs end up working for the most part, said Dr Bruce Johnson, lung cancer specialist at Dana-Farber. At this point, many start chemotherapy, the only option left.

Another type of treatment for lung cancer was developed about five years ago: immunotherapy, which uses drugs to help the immune system fight cancer. Two-thirds of patients in an unpublished Dana-Farber study were not eligible for targeted therapies but half of them were eligible for immunotherapy alone, and others accept it with chemotherapy.

Immunotherapy is given for two years. With it, life expectancy almost doubled, said Dr. Charu Aggarwal, a lung cancer specialist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Now, said Dr David Jackman of Dana-Farber, chemotherapy as the only initial treatment for lung cancer is declining, at least in this cancer treatment center, which is at the forefront of research. When he looked at data from his medical center, he found that, since 2019, only about 12% of Dana-Farber’s patients had received chemotherapy alone, Dr Jackman said. Another 21 percent had targeted therapy as initial treatment, and of the remaining patients, 85 percent received immunotherapy alone or with chemotherapy.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Cancer without chemotherapy: "A totally different world"
Cancer without chemotherapy: "A totally different world"
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