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.
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.
Rival drug makers Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb are developing similar PD-1 inhibitors designed to mobilize the immune system.