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    Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: Advances in Treatment

    Targeted Therapy continued...

    Malik says people tend to do well with these medications. “They are oral tablets, so you don't have to come to the doctor's office every 2 to 3 weeks and get hooked into an IV.”

    Side effects are milder than those that come with chemo. Skin rashes, nail changes, diarrhea, and fatigue are common.               

    Targeted therapy is mostly used with people who have advanced (stage IV) NSCLC. It can help them live longer. Researchers are working to see if targeted therapies can help people with early-stage NSCLC.

    Immunotherapy

    If your cancer is in a late stage, this new type of medicine can boost your immune system and help it fight cancer cells. In March 2015, the FDA approved the first immunotherapy drug for NSCLC patients. Others may soon follow.               

    “The good news about immunotherapy is that if you do respond, the responses tend to be durable,” Ng says. “We expect patients to benefit significantly from these drugs.”               

    Immunotherapy must be given at the doctor's office. “It's still an injection once every 2 weeks, but it's much more tolerable, and the side effects are minimal,” Ng says.               

    Fatigue and joint aches are common. In rare cases, immunotherapy can cause inflammation in the lungs, liver, thyroid, pituitary gland, brain, or colon. “You're unleashing the immune system to go and attack the cancer,” Simon says. Sometimes it can turn on the body and attack something it isn’t supposed to.               

    Researchers are looking into other ways to use these types of treatments. People with early-stage cancer might get them before they have surgery. Others might take them together with chemotherapy.               

    Imagine, Ng says -- you’re getting chemo to fight the cancer at the same time you’re taking drugs to strengthen your immune system.

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    Reviewed on March 21, 2016

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