A new study comparing a recent immunotherapy drug and an existing chemotherapy drug will take place at Houston Methodist Hospital, with the aim of understanding the effect both drugs have on the development of non-small cell lung cancer.
Immunotherapy has been emerging as a viable nontoxic therapy that works in a completely different way from chemotherapy, since it boosts a patients’ own immune system to fight their cancer cells, and can soon be a revolutionary approach for oncologists to treat lung cancer. Furthermore, unlike chemotherapy, immunotherapy has a long-lasting effect, even when it is not being administered anymore.
As a research strategy, individuals will be assigned randomly to either the immunotherapy or chemotherapy intervention group, with neither the patient nor the doctor being able to choose the group assigned but having full knowledge of which treatment is assigned.
The study’s principal investigator Dr. Eric Bernicker, M.D., thoracic medical oncologist with Houston Methodist Cancer Center, said that, “For the first time we are using targeted therapy and relying on the patient’s immune system to help fight the cancer,” opening up a door of opportunities, since immunotherapy is less toxic and has fewer side effects for patients.
Lung cancer is the second largest malignancy in the United States, with 85% of all lung cancers being characterized as non-small cell. Over the last decade, lung cancer research has advanced tremendously, especially due to the discovery of molecular mutations involved in tumor progression, leading researchers to understand the potential of the immune system in fighting this disease. The result of this study represents a unique opportunity since it will gather evidence on how the new therapy can compare against typical chemotherapy.