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    Lung Cancer: Cutting-Edge Treatments

    Learn about some of the latest therapies developed to treat lung cancer -- and raise survival rates.

    Targeted Treatment for Lung Cancer continued...

    And, in addition to hopefully improving treatment, targeted drugs often decrease side effects.

    Now researchers hope Avastin plus chemotherapy might cure people with early-stage lung cancer. "If this gives us the same kind of benefit in advanced disease, which I think it probably will, this will be probably one of the biggest life-savers for lung cancer," Rigas says.

    Another targeted treatment -- approved for lung cancer in 2004 -- is Tarceva, which targets a protein found on cancer cells that helps them multiply.

    This drug was tested as a sole treatment on people with late-stage lung cancer who had not done well with chemotherapy. On average, those taking Tarceva lived two months longer than those taking a placebo, and also found an easing of symptoms.

    Antibody Therapy for Lung Cancer

    Your immune system does not see cancer cells as a threat, destroying them like it does viruses, bacteria, and foreign tissue. But the immune system can be trained to attack tumors, and researchers have taken the first steps toward creating lung cancer drugs that work this way.

    One approach is called "targeted antibody therapy," where the immune system recognizes a molecule called an antigen on the surface of an invader, creates an antibody which latches onto the antigen, then destroys the invader.

    This works because some cancer cells have antigens that don't show up on the vast majority of normal, healthy cells. And because the body doesn't naturally make antibodies against these cancer antigens, scientists have.

    Andrew Scott, MD, head of the Melbourne, Australia branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, has tested an antibody that targets the tissue which supports a tumor. In a phase I clinical trial -- a study that tests a drug's safety -- people with advanced lung cancer or colon cancer were injected with the antibody. Then, using special dyes, researchers tracked where the antibody went.

    What they found were "very high concentrations in the cancer but very low concentrations in any other normal tissue," says Scott, meaning the antibody targets tumors specifically and that treatment will likely cause little damage to healthy cells.

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