Are There Treatments for Lung Cancer?

Yes! There are many different treatments available to help reduce and eliminate mutated cell division within the lungs. Depending upon the prognosis, doctors will explain various treatment options available for the patient. Common treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and targeted drug therapy have helped many.


Surgery is the physical removal of lung cancer tissue. Depending on the seriousness of the disease, surgery can involve removal of a small section of lung tissue, a larger portion of the lung, an entire lobe, or the removal of an entire lung. Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. One (or more) drugs will be administered as a series of treatments over a period of weeks or months. Chemotherapy can often be used in conjunction with surgery.

Radiation Therapy:

Radiation therapy is the use of high-powered beams to destroy cancer cells. This therapy can be administered externally from outside the body by beam radiation or internally via the use of needles, seeds, or catheters placed near the cancer cells. Radiation therapy will often be used after surgery to remove any remaining cancer cells found.

Several newer methods for giving radiation therapy have become available in recent years. For example, some newer radiation therapy machines have imaging scanners built into them. This advance, known as image guided radiation therapy (IGRT), lets the doctor take pictures of the lung and make minor adjustments in aiming just before giving the radiation. This may help deliver the radiation more precisely, which might result in fewer side effects.

Targeted Drug Therapy:

Researchers are learning more about the inner workings of lung cancer cells that control their growth and spread. This is being used to develop new targeted therapy drugs. These drugs work differently from standard chemotherapy drugs. They might work in some cases when standard chemo drugs don’t, and they often have different (and less severe) side effects. Many of these treatments are being tested in clinical trials to see if they can help people with lung cancer live longer or relieve their symptoms.

These newer cancer treatments target specific abnormalities in cancer cells. Your cancer cells will need to be tested to determine which drugs are viable for use. Targeted drug therapy can be combined with one or more of the other treatment options. Some of the targeted drugs now being studied include alisertib and linsitinib.

Clinical Trials:

Clinical trials are an option if other treatment options are limited or if your body is not responding well to other treatment options. Experimental lung cancer treatments usually include the most current innovations but do not promise a cure. Many clinical trials will have rules or eligibility requirements that your doctor will be able to discuss with you to see if you’re an ideal client and if you qualify.

Palliative Care:

Palliative care is a specialty area of medicine designed to improve your quality of life by minimizing your signs and symptoms. This supportive care will often help increase your comfort during and after cancer treatment. Palliative care doesn’t replace but instead complements your other cancer treatments.

Immune Treatments:

Researchers are developing immunotherapy drugs that can help the body’s immune system fight the cancer:

  • Immune check point inhibitors: Cancer cells can sometimes avoid being attacked by the body’s immune system by using certain “checkpoints” that normally keep the immune system in check. For example, cancer cells often have a lot of a protein called PD-L1 on their surface that helps them evade the immune system. New drugs that block the PD-L1 protein, or the corresponding PD-1 protein on immune cells called T cells, can help the immune system recognize the cancer cells and attack them.
  • Nivolumab (Opdivo) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda) are anti-PD-1 drugs that are already used to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer. These drugs have also been shown to shrink some small cell lung cancers in early studies.
  • Ipilimumab (Yervoy) is a drug that targets CTLA-4, another protein in the body that normally suppresses the immune response. The drug is also being studied in SCLC. The combination of CTLA-4 and PD-1 targeted drugs has also shown early promise in SCLC.
  • Vaccines: Several types of vaccines for boosting the body’s immune response against lung cancer cells are being tested in clinical trials. Unlike vaccines against infections like measles or mumps, these vaccines are designed to help treat, not prevent, lung cancer. These types of treatments seem to have very limited side effects, so they might be useful in people who can’t tolerate other treatments. At this time, vaccines are only available in clinical trials.

For more details, continue reading at Mayo Clinic.

In addition, researchers are looking to use new imaging techniques, such as four-dimensional computed tomography (4DCT), to help improve treatment. In this technique, the CT machine scans the chest continuously for about 30 seconds. It shows where the tumor is in relation to other structures as a person breathes, as opposed to just giving a ‘snapshot’ of a point in time, like a standard CT does.

4DCT can be used to determine exactly where the tumor is during each part of the breathing cycle, which can help doctors deliver radiation to a tumor more precisely. This technique might also be used to help show if a tumor is attached to or invading important structures in the chest, which could help doctors determine if a patient might be eligible for surgery.