A new randomized open-label study will be offered at Houston Methodist Hospital, aiming to compare the therapeutic effects between an emerging immunotherapy drug and an existing chemotherapy drug in the development of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
NSCLC accounts for 85% of all lung cancer cases, making it the most common type of lung cancer and the second most common malignancy in the US.
Immunotherapy has the potential to activate, modulate, and teach a patient’s immune system to fight cancer cells. It does not present as many cytotoxic side effects as chemotherapy, and it also continues to work as a therapy in one’s body after it has been administered, providing a certain amount of immunological memory.
Immunotherapies are now starting to emerge as a viable, effective, and real treatment option for patients suffering from multiple types of cancer.
The development of immune checkpoint inhibitors, such as ipilimumab or nivolumab, has been the focus of several clinical trials that are opening a new door of possibilities in the fight against cancer, without having to rely on the fairly toxic and sometimes inefficient chemotherapy.
This particular trial gains its strength from directly comparing the use of immunotherapy with that of traditional chemotherapeutic agents.
“For the first time we are using targeted therapy and relying on the patient’s immune system to help fight the cancer. From a research standpoint we need to be able to offer new options to our patients using less toxic therapies, with fewer side effects,” said Eric Bernicker, M.D., thoracic medical oncologist with Houston Methodist Cancer Center and the study’s principal investigator in a Houston Methodist Hospital press release.
The trial is sponsored by Genentech, one of the world’s leading biotech companies, and will include 5 subjects at the Houston hospital alongside 850 subjects nationwide. Patients will be assigned to either one of the two intervention groups and neither patient nor doctor can choose which group to be assigned, although they will know what treatment will be received.
“Lung cancer research has expanded because of the tremendous strides that have been made in identifying molecular mutations that drive the tumor development. Researchers are beginning to recognize that the immune system can be better harnessed to help fight the disease,” added Dr. Bernicker.