Lung Cancer Treatments

Lung cancer in its two major forms, non-small cell and small cell, involves the formation of a tumor. Typical lung cancer symptoms, a nagging cough and shortness of breath, do not appear until the cancer is quite advanced. This greatly reduces the success rate of various treatments for the disease. The leading cause of cancer deaths in women and responsible for over 170,000 deaths in the US annually, lung cancer research is seeking new and more effective treatments.

Chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, or one or more of these in combination are the common therapies used in cancer treatment. Yet there are some alternative therapies in use and development.
Traditional chemotherapy is involves strong medication. When cancer is inoperable and/or spreading, this is often the procedure of choice. Surgery is performed when the cancer is localized and may be used in combination with chemotherapy. Another therapy used alone or in combination is radiation, high-energy x-rays, to kill cancer cells.

Immunotherapy, a newer treatment, boosts the individual's immune system, allowing them to fight the disease more naturally.

At the A.P. John Institute for Cancer Research, Controlled Amino Acid Therapy (CAAT) has been developed and studied. CAAT is a procedure involving carbohydrate and protein deprivation. Research at the National Cancer Institute and the University of Chicago supports the benefits of CAAT in 
lung cancer treatments. With its specific diet protocols and scientifically formulated amino acid supplements, CAAT works to impair the proliferation and development of cancer cells.

There are also some new chemotherapy agents which work more specifically on the cancerous cells than traditional compounds. In 2003, Gefitinib, chemotherapy in pill form, was approved. Gefitinib blocks the enzyme required for tumor cell growth and spread.

More promising results have been recorded with a combination treatment. Bevacizumab and Erlotinib work together on both the inside and outside of a cancer cell. On the outside, Bevacizumab is an antibody which blocks growth of new blood vessels feeding the tumor. Inside the cancer cell, Erlotinib blocks signals that trigger cancer growth.

PDT, Photodynamic Therapy, uses directed light to eradicate cancer cells. PDT protocol calls for the administration of a phototoxic drug (photosensitizer) and then localized exposure of the cancerous target to visible light, either lasers or more conventional light sources. An FDA approved method; its current use is for solid cancerous lesions. Within PDT, certain immune cells play a role in accelerating the process of tumor eradication. Therefore, studies at the BC Cancer Research Centre are being conducted to use PDT and immunotherapy in combination, heightening the effects of PDT alone.

While many new treatments are being developed, the number one recommendation for those investigating causes and cures for lung cancer is to eliminate exposure to causative factors, number one being to quit smoking.