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New lung cancer treatment doubles patient's life expectancy

By Marcus Hondro     May 31, 2015 in Health
A newly released trial of a new drug from researchers in Spain suggests the drug, Nivolumab, can double the life expectancy of lung cancer patients. The drug may, a U.K. researcher said, represent a new "paradigm shift in how we treat lung cancer."
Lung cancer drug Nivolumab
The body has natural defenses to fight cancers but in the case of lung cancer, and of other cancers, the cancerous cells can hide from those natural defenses and keep multiplying. In the trial of Nivolumab using 582 lung cancer patients, the drug was able to find and destroy cancer cells.
The drug, a PD-1 inhibitor, referred to as a "checkpoint inhibitor," was able to prevent the cancer cells from turning off the immune systems ability to fight. The patients in the study all had advanced lung cancer and had tried other options. Those patients in the study on standard therapy lived on average 9.4 months longer.
The results of the trial, presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, showed that the patients on Nivolumab lived on average another 12.2 to 19.4 months longer. There are many other companies conducting similar trials on similar drugs to Nivolumab.
"Paradigm shift" in cancer treatment
Dr Luis Paz-Ares of the Hospital Universitario Doce de Octubre and a lead researcher in the project, said that the new drug marks "a milestone in the development of new treatment options for lung cancer." He said Nivolumab is the first drug to "show a significant improvement in overall survival in a phase III trial."
The BBC spoke with Dr. Martin Forster of the cancer institute at University College London who said this new wave of drugs signify a "really exciting" phase in the treatment of the disease. "I think these drugs will be a paradigm shift in how we treat lung cancer," he said.
There are about 1.6 million cancer deaths annually worldwide, with about 70 percent of those deaths a result of smoking. Overall, there are more than 8 million cancer-related deaths in the world each year and those numbers are expected to rise dramatically.
There is yet to be a timeline on when these drugs will hit the market.
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