Chemotherapy, Immunotherapy, and Targeted Therapy

The three main types of treatment that you can expect after receiving a lung cancer diagnosis include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. There are others but I will talk about these three, what they are, how are they similar and how are they different. Also, a few names of drugs that you can expect to hear while deciding which treatment to go on.

Chemotherapy for lung cancer

The most common type of cancer treatment and by far the one you have probably heard of even before being diagnosed is chemotherapy. With as many advances in treatment options out there, many people associate needing chemotherapy with a bad thing but I feel that there is a time and a place for this treatment. Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses powerful chemicals to kill fast-growing cells in your body. There are many side effects that come with taking chemotherapy and it ranges by which drug you receive but the main ones include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and hair loss. Common chemotherapies used for lung cancer include Carboplatin, Cisplatin, and Docetaxel.

Immunotherapy is a newer treatment option

A fairly new treatment in the lung cancer world is immunotherapy. While the topic has been researched for many years and has been in clinical trials for just as long it has only been within the last ten or so years that this treatment has been widely used in Lung and other cancers. Immunotherapy is a type of therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection, and other diseases. Immunotherapy has been coined “the new hope for lung cancer treatment” because of how it uses the immune system to fight cancer. There have been many cases where this treatment has significantly decreased disease in patients however, it is not always the best option. Those of us with an EGFR or ALK mutation have yet to find this a viable treatment option. There are a few clinical trials to see if this will ever be an option for those with mutations. The two most common immunotherapy drugs used for lung cancer include Opdivo and Keytruda.

What is targeted therapy?

The next treatment available to lung cancer patients is called targeted therapy. Targeted therapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to target specific genes and proteins that are involved in the growth and survival of cancer cells. When choosing a treatment many cancer patients prefer targeted therapies due to their convenience and the chance for minimal side effects. This is not always the case as some of the targeted therapies do show to have a lot of side effects but as with all treatments, everyone reacts differently. There are many targeted therapies that you can use to treat lung cancer and it depends on which biomarker the tumor has. A few examples include Tarceva, Tagrisso, Crizotinib, Brigantinib, Alectinib, and Loralatinib.

These types of therapies are similar in that they all treat cancer and kill cancer cells. They are different in the way that they kill cancer as well as how they are administered. It is always best to discuss with your doctor the best route you should choose. One treatment may work well for your disease while another one may not. Always speak with your care team as they will know what is best.

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