Lung cancer patients who receive immunotherapy will gain extra years of life and see improved survival rates, according to new findings by doctors.

Immunotherapy is a form of treatment that helps the body's immune system to fight back against cancer. Is it the key to winning the fight against cancer?

Immunotherapy Improves Lung Cancer Survival Rates

Immunotherapy, which has had much of its success against less common forms of cancer, was discovered to greatly improve the survival rates for patients who are newly diagnosed with the most common form of lung cancer. This is so far the biggest victory for immunotherapy in its battle against cancer.

The study involved Keytruda, the immunotherapy drug by Merck that was the first cancer medication that received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The findings of the study revealed that when Keytruda was administered alongside standard chemotherapy, the risk of death or having the cancer become worse was cut in half compared to chemotherapy alone after almost a year.

Another study, meanwhile, discovered that a combination of immunotherapy drugs, namely Opdivo and Yervoy by Bristol-Myers Squibb, functioned better than chemotherapy in delaying the worsening of cancer in advanced lung cancer patients whose tumors contain many gene flaws. However, the benefit only lasted for an average of less than two months, and it is too soon to say that the combination of immunotherapy drugs improves survival rates as well as Keytruda.

The immunotherapy treatments only worked for about half of the patients involved in the studies. However, that figure is far better than the success rate of chemotherapy against lung cancer.

In fact, the results of the studies on the effect of immunotherapy against lung cancer are so significant that all lung cancer patients should be given this option first, according to lung cancer specialist Dr. Roy Herbst from the Yale Cancer Center.

"I have never seen progress move so fast," said Herbst to NBC News. "The results today are really a paradigm shift. They will mean more lung cancer patients getting immunotherapy up front."

Cancer Treatment Breakthroughs

The studies proving immunotherapy as potent treatment for lung cancer could not have come any sooner. Recent researches have showed the growing risk of lung cancer, even among babies who may be exposed to third-hand smoke.

In the meantime, it also remains to be seen whether immunotherapy will also be a possible method to attack other forms of cancer to go along with kindness and compassion.

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