A new study offered at Houston Methodist Hospital will compare an emerging immunotherapy drug to an existing chemotherapy drug and look at the effects both drugs have on the development of non-small cell lung cancer, a type of cancer which makes up about 85 percent of lung cancer cases. Lung cancer is the second most common malignancy in the United States.
For many years, researchers had hoped to find a way to manipulate the immune system to attack tumors. With the development of immune checkpoint inhibitors, cancer researchers are beginning to see evidence of sustained responses to a fairly nontoxic therapy that works completely different from chemotherapy. With so many different studies looking at immunotherapy, this particular study offered at Houston Methodist Hospital is important because it hopes to see how the new therapy stacks up against standard chemotherapy.
"For the first time we are using targeted therapy and relying on the patient's immune system to help fight the cancer," said Eric Bernicker, M.D., thoracic medical oncologist with Houston Methodist Cancer Center and the study's principal investigator. "From a research standpoint we need to be able to offer new options to our patients using less toxic therapies, with fewer side effects."
Immunotherapy could soon change the way oncologists are treating lung cancer. Immunotherapy stimulates the body's own immune system to attack cancer cells through humanmade proteins. Unlike normal chemotherapy, once immunotherapy is underway it has an ongoing impact in the body even when the drug is not being administered.
To test this research question, individuals will be randomly assigned by a computer to one of the following intervention groups. When the individual is randomized into the study, neither the patient nor study doctor may choose the group assigned. This is an open-label study, meaning the study doctor and patient will know which treatment is assigned.
"Lung cancer research has expanded because of the tremendous strides that have been made in identifying molecular mutations that drive the tumor development," Bernicker said. "Researchers are beginning to recognize that the immune system can be better harnessed to help fight the disease."
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