Small Cell Lung Cancer: New Immunotherapy?


Lung cancer is one of the most commonly occurring types of cancer. Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC), also known as oat cell carcinoma, is an aggressive subtype of lung cancer that accounts for approximately 15% of all lung cancers, It is distinguished by rapid growth, early spread to distant sites, and delicate sensitivity to chemotherapy and radiation. Those with SCLC have had initial symptoms, such as coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain for a few months before they visit their doctor. The main cause of SCLC is tobacco smoking, and even second-hand smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer.In addition, exposure to asbestos greatly increases the risk of lung cancer.

SCLC is not usually detected until it is at an advanced stage, when metastases have already formed. Initially chemotherapy is extremely effective, however, within a year, resistant tumors eventually recur, and will not respond to chemotherapy. This is due to the fact that this type of cancer causes numerous cancer cells to migrate into the blood where they circulate and form metastases in other places in the body, spontaneously forming large cancer clusters, with oxygen-deprived cores. These cancer clusters are resistant to chemotherapy, initially because the drugs are unable to penetrate the cluster, and because many of the cells are dormant due to lack of oxygen.

In a recent study by the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, it is shown that using nivolumab, an FDA-approved drug used to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer patients, and ipilimumab, approved for advanced melanoma patients that stimulate the immune system to target cancer cells. The FDA approved this two-drug immunotherapy regimen, and researchers reported that this combination resulted positively in SCLC patients whose treatment options are limited.

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