Non Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment


Approximately 220,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed this year. There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. The most common form is called non-small cell lung cancer, also referred to as NSCLC, which accounts for approximately 85 percent of all cases.

Three forms of non-small cell lung cancer can develop.

The first, called squamous cell carcinoma, account for 25 to 30 percent of all cases. This type of non-small cell lung cancer is usually found in the middle of the lungs and is often linked to smoking tobacco products.

The second type, called adenocarcinoma, represents about 40 percent of non-small cell lung cancers and is found in the outer parts of the lungs.

The final type is called large-cell carcinoma, which accounts for 10 to 15 percent of lung cancer. These types of tumors are fast-growing and can appear in any part of the lung, making them more difficult to treat.

Treatment for non-small cell lung cancer can include one or more of the following treatment pathways:

All of the lung, or just part of the lung, can be removed during surgical intervention. The most common lung cancer surgery is called a lobectomy, where a surgeon removes the tumor as well as a lobe of the lung. Another surgery, called a segmentectomy or wedge resection, occurs when the tumor along with a small amount of the lung that surrounded the tumor is removed. When the entire lung is removed, the surgery is called a pneumonectomy.
Radiation Therapy
This form of treatment uses high energy rays to kill the cancerous lung cells. For lung cancer treatment, external radiation is most commonly used in combination with chemotherapy or instead of surgery in those cancers that can not be removed due to size or location.
For non-small cell lung cancer, chemotherapy can be given prior to surgery to try to reduce the size of the tumor, or afterwards to try to kill any cancer cells remaining following surgery. It also can be the main treatment for people who are not healthy enough to undergo surgery. Typically, a combination of two of the following chemotherapies is used at the same time: carboplatin, cisplatin, docetaxel, etoposide, gemcitabine, irinotecan, paclitaxel, pemetrexed or vinblastine.
Targeted Therapies
For more advanced non-small cell lung cancers, targeted therapies that target underlying genes that are overexpressed on the surface of the cancer cells also may be given in combination with chemotherapy. A targeted therapy called Avastin is used to cut off the development of blood vessels the tumor needs to grow. Other therapies called Iressa, Tarceva and Erbitux, which block a protein called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), are also given to try to stop the growth of the cancer.
Clinical Trials
Another option to treat small cell lung cancer is to enroll in a clinical trial where researchers are either investigating a new, innovative treatment option or a new treatment regimen consisting of different combinations or doses of existing anticancer therapies. Enrollment in a clinical trial should be coordinated closely with the treating oncologist.

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