An investigation involving the Insular University Hospital of Gran Canaria showed that 20% of lung cancer patients who received immunotherapy for two years respond again to the same treatment after this time. “Till now we did not handle the actual data. For this reason, we have analyzed five of the most important studies conducted in the world in recent years.Explains Dr. Delvis Rodriguez Abreu, a specialist in oncology at the aforementioned health center in the capital, who presented the results last Tuesday within the framework of the World Congress of Lung Cancer, held in Vienna.
And it is that, currently, patients exposed to this therapeutic method have to suspend it at 24 months. If recurrence occurs, doctors should consider other options. “When this happens, our main question is whether we can apply the same immunotherapy, resort to another, or administer chemotherapy,” said Dr. Rodriguez, who is reassuring that the findings open an optimistic window for a group of affected people.
The truth is that both immunotherapy and targeted therapy have changed the way lung cancer is treated. “Patients who have high expression of the PD-L1 protein, for example, no longer receive chemotherapy and can be treated with immunotherapy alone. It should be noted that 30% of them survive five to five years.” years, because until a few years ago this figure reached only 5%»Expert highlights.
However, many patients are still resistant to these drugs. “From the insular hospital and scientific communities we try to find new drugs and new combinations of immunotherapy that can benefit as many patients as possible,” says the oncologist. So much so, in the reference complex in the southern region of Gran Canaria, studies are underway to reverse this resistance.
But the future is marked by personalized therapies. In fact, Insular Hospital conducts large-scale gene sequencing to find predictive factors of response and to be able to personalize treatments. “It is the only center in the Canary Islands that does this technology, which allows it to be assessed whether there are mutations that make patients more sensitive to immunotherapy, or more resistant.”Expert notes.
Although the life expectancy of patients has increased significantly due to research work, lung cancer remains the oncological pathology that produces the most deaths. In the Canary Islands alone, 1,200 cases are diagnosed each year and nearly a thousand deaths are recorded. “The big problem is that, despite the fact that it is the tumor that causes the most deaths, it ranks sixth in terms of research,” says also the president of the Canarian Lung Cancer Foundation.
Another major concern goes hand in hand with the effects of the health crisis, as as a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, many patients reach professional consultation with the disease in more advanced stages than usual. “Delay in diagnosis has prevented many cases from being detected in the early stages. Fortunately, now we have more weapons to fight this cancer, but our main task is to avoid factors that favor its development, ”says the doctor.
It should be noted that in 80% of cases, this tumor is manifested in people who smoke. For this reason, one of the Foundation’s main goals is focused on curbing smoking. “People have to understand that, to avoid suffering from this pathology, it is best not to smoke in any of its forms,” emphasizes the professional.
On the other hand, to promote early diagnosis, claims the need for physician screening programmes. “We already know that performing low-dose radiation computed tomography (CAT) in patients who smoke reduces mortality by 20%. Unfortunately, 80% of cases diagnosed on the islands are in advanced stages.
Similarly, it is important to pay attention to the warning signs as well. Now, what are the signs that may indicate the presence of this disease? As described by the oncologist, the main symptoms include weight loss, lumps, bleeding and coughing that persists for more than a week. “When any of these symptoms appear, it is necessary to consult professionals to remove any doubts. It is true that, on occasions, the diagnosis does not correspond to lung cancer, but it is better to clear the unknown in time”, warns Delvis Rodriguez.