Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: Advances in Chemotherapy
When Is Chemotherapy Used for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer?
“The decision whether to give a patient chemotherapy primarily depends upon
the stage of cancer,” says Simon. Other factors, such as your health and
ability to tolerate treatment also come into play.
Here are the current guidelines for chemotherapy in lung cancer
Stage I. Most people with Stage I cancer do not receive chemotherapy.
However, in some cases, chemotherapy may be used after surgery to help kill any
remaining cancer cells.
Stage II. Chemotherapy is usually given after surgery as an adjuvant
therapy to help kill any remaining cancer cells.
Stage III. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery all may be
used. Chemotherapy may be given at the same time as radiation therapy, or one
after the other. Chemotherapy given at the same time as radiation therapy is
generally referred to as concurrent therapy. This combination is more effective
than radiation alone, but potentially harder on the patient. “Whether
chemotherapy is used at the same time as radiation therapy depends on the
health and strength of the patient,” says Simon.
Stage IV. Patients at this stage will receive chemotherapy alone or
with targeted treatments. At this stage, the cancer has spread throughout the
body and can’t be cured. The goals of chemotherapy are to help control cancer,
lessen symptoms, and lengthen life.
If your cancer comes back after your initial treatment (called recurrent
cancer), you may receive chemotherapy either alone or with other treatments
to help control it. If your cancer does come back, it’s important to talk with
your doctor about the goals, likely benefits, and possible risks of any
continued treatment. Even if your cancer can’t be cured, treatment can help
minimize symptoms and slow cancer growth.
What Is Chemotherapy Treatment for Lung Cancer Like?
Lung cancer patients usually get chemotherapy on an outpatient basis. That
means that you will go to a medical facility (doctor’s office or hospital
clinic) to receive treatment and can return home once your treatment is done
for the day. For NSCLC, most people get two chemotherapy drugs or
combination chemotherapy. There are several chemotherapy drugs
available, and your doctor will chose them based on your specific situation.
These are chemotherapy drugs commonly used to treat NSCLC.
- Cisplatin (Platinol)
- Carboplatin (Paraplatin)
- Paclitaxel (Onxol, Taxol)
- Docetaxel (Taxotere)
- Vinorelbine (Navelbine)
- Gemcitabine (Gemzar)
- Etoposide (Toposar, Vepesid)
- Irinotecan (Camptosar)
- Vinblastine (Alkaban-AQ, Velban, VLB)
- Mitomycin (Mutamycin)
- Ifosfamide (Ifex)
- Pemetrexed (Alimta)
- Erlotinib (Tarceva)
- Bevacizumab (Avastin)
- Cetuximab (Erbitux)
- Albumin-bound paclitaxel (Abraxane)
Chemotherapy is given in cycles that last 3 to 4 weeks. You’ll have time off
in between cycles so that your body can recover. You may have 4 to 6 treatment
cycles of chemotherapy. Although you can expect to feel tired following each
treatment, many people can continue to work and enjoy their regular activities
while receiving chemotherapy.