For the first time in decades, we have momentum and hope in the progress made with immunotherapy and companion drug trials. Timely approval and availability of breakthrough therapies allow more families to think of lung cancer survival in terms of years, not just months, and provide hope to make lung cancer a chronic, manageable disease by 2023. It can’t get more personalized than using your own immune system to fight your cancer!
Immunotherapy is a game-changer; a breakthrough that oncology desperately needs. Now, for the first time, we can begin to talk about long-lasting effects, even a cure. Unlike other therapies, immunotherapies afford a sustained, durable response that continues even after treatment is stopped—a first for diseases like lung cancer that have had poor prognoses.
This is a quantum leap forward—a moonshot. Before now, patients had limited options, especially after their disease progressed beyond the current standard of care therapies. Unfortunately, immunotherapy does not work with every patient, every time. Approximately 70% to 80% of cancer patients do not respond to immunotherapy treatments, which may be an outcome of clinical trial design, including selection of the appropriate patient population.
Among patients who do respond to immunotherapy, not all have dramatic, long-lasting effects. Several patients present with pseudoprogression, meaning the disease appears to get worse before it gets better. Physicians, patients, and their caregivers need to be prepared for this to avoid discontinuing a potentially effective therapeutic regimen.
Bonnie J. Addario was invited to contribute to the Immuno-Oncology Special Issue of the American Journal of Managed Care, to provide the Patient Perspective, as well share the Foundation’s efforts to promote research in lung cancer—particularly in personalizing care based on a patient’s genetic profile—and to help patients gain access to new life-saving treatments