Lung cancer is considered to be a dangerous and aggressive disease, which is responsible for the death of almost 8,000 patients per year. Early diagnosis of the disease would give a chance of survival for more than half of the patients. The development of therapies targeting lung cancer has notably accelerated in the past decade and a half. With the help of modern treatments, such as targeted cancer therapies and immunotherapy, the lives of patients at an advanced stage can be saved in an increasing number of cases. On the occasion of Semmelweis Health Days held on 26 November, one of the presentations will focus on the new treatment opportunities of lung cancer.
Lung cancer is a common tumor, which is often detected too late, when the patient is already at an advanced stage of the disease: at this point the disease cannot be cured or is very difficult to cure.
“In Hungary, almost 8,000 patients die because of lung cancer. Especially those people are endangered, who have been smoking for several decades. Since 80% of the patients with serious lung cancer are heavy smokers, regular screenings would be very important for them”, points out Dr. György Losonczy, oncologist-pulmonologist at the Department of Pulmonology of Semmelweis University.
According to Professor Losonczy, a lot of patients can be diagnosed at an early stage of the disease with the help of screening, when there are no metastases yet. For this reason, he welcomes the planned launch of the national lung cancer screening program with low dose CT scan, involving smokers above 50 in the national public health care screening project. As he said, with the help of operation or radiation therapy, patients can be entirely cured at an early stage of the disease.
In the past years, there has been a significant progress in the therapy of advanced stage cancer and metastatic tumors, which account for two-thirds of the cases. According to Dr. Losonczy, the development in this field has accelerated in the past 15 years, and changes are perceptible even within such a short period of time as six months.
On the occasion of Semmelweis Health Days, the professor of oncology and pulmonology will present the most efficient therapies, including targeted cancer therapy.
“Targeted tumor therapy enables pathologists to tell whether the lung cancer has a molecular defect or mutant molecules that could be responsible for tumor growth based on a biopsy taken from the tumor. This molecule can be identified in 15% of the cases, therefore patients have the opportunity to receive medication targeting this abnormally functioning protein responsible for cell growth instead of chemotherapy.”, the professor explained.
In addition to targeted cancer therapy, immunotherapy will also be introduced in the course of the presentation and consultation, which was considered to be a breakthrough in the past 5-6 years in the treatment of lung cancer. Lung cancer cells can generally defend themselves against being rejected by the patient’s own immune system. However, nowadays there are certain drugs available, which make lung cancer recognizable to the immune system, thus stimulating the body’s own defense system to stop tumor growth.
“With the help of these therapies, advanced lung cancer may be “tamed” to become a chronic disease from a deadly disease. The use of new drugs may even be able to cure patients with metastatic cancer and result in the fact that patients even with a metastatic tumor can be cured”, said Dr. Losonczy.
Semmelweis Health Days is the interactive, public health program series of Semmelweis University celebrating its 250th anniversary, the lectures focusing on lung diseases are held on 26 November.
Cover photo (illustration): Adobe Stock; photo: Attila Kovács – Semmelweis University
Translation: Katalin Illés-Romhányi