According to a new study, an experimental drug used to treat lung cancer may be more effective on those who smoke than those who refrained.
Of the 52 patients with non-small cell lung cancer tumors, 26 percent saw their tumors shrink. These patients were all smokers.
Of non-smokers, only 10 percent of patients saw their tumors shrink.
Co-chair of the European Cancer Congress scientific committee Cora Sternberg said the drug could be a game-changer in lung cancer, which can sometimes be impossible to cure.
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Cornelis van de Velde, an oncologist at Leiden University Medical Center, said the study is extremely important for NSCLC patients because there are few treatment options.
By blocking a protein called PD-L1, which tumors trick into allowing T-cells to remain inactive, T-cells can “wake up” and multiply to attack the cancer more efficiently.
Researchers suspect that because lung tumors in smokers have a higher rate of genetic mutation than those in non-smokers, the immune systems of smokers are more likely to respond when PD-L1 is blocked.
Roche, the pharmaceutical company developing the drug, is also investigating into the drug’s ability to treat other types of cancer, including melanoma skin cancer and kidney cancer.
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Rival drug makers Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb are developing similar PD-1 inhibitors designed to mobilize the immune system.