What Role Does Radiation Play in Lung Cancer Care?

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Topics include: Treatments and Understanding

Patient Power founder Andrew Schorr is joined by esteemed lung cancer experts Dr. Jhanelle Gray and Dr. Stephen A. Rosenberg, both from the Moffitt Cancer Center, to help patients understand the role of radiation oncology in lung cancer care. Can radiation boost the effects of treatment? The panel explains the various ways patients can benefit from the use of radiation and shares evidence from clinical research on the combination of radiation with lung cancer therapies. Watch now to learn more. 

This is a Patient Empowerment Network program produced by Patient Power, in partnership with Moffitt Cancer Center. We thank AbbVie, Inc., Celgene Corporation, Foundation Medicine, and Novartis for their support.

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:

So, Dr. Rosenberg, radiation oncology comes into play here because often when somebody’s diagnosed radiation can help shrink the tumors, right? And also alleviate some of the pain and other issues that people may have, right?

Dr. Rosenberg:            

Yeah. No. I think you hit on a lot of big major points there. And it really is a team approach. Particularly at Moffitt when we approach lung cancer trying to think about how we can do best for the patients, whether it’s a clinical trial or not. Radiation plays a big role for patients who have a locally advanced disease. Some of the standard of care is combining chemotherapy with radiation for patients with some advanced disease. But for patients who have had cancer spread to other parts of the body as well, radiation’s really good to help alleviate pain and even approve breathing and the other things that are happening. 

And with newer agents we often find that radiation may even be potentiating the immune effects of some of the new immunotherapy drugs that are out there. And so, we’re really excited about some of the trials and studies we’re doing with Dr. Gray and her team. And the team as a whole at Moffitt combining irradiation with some of their new—with targeted drugs and immunotherapy drugs right now. 

Andrew Schorr:          

Wait. Let me see if I get that. And Dr. Gray, feel free to comment too. Are you saying that radiation can sort of boost the effect of some of these medicines?

Dr. Rosenberg:            

Yeah. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there. And some basic science that’s right now emerging about how the immune system and radiation really are so interconnected. And how that helps us actually attack cancer by actually basically releasing the immune system to recognize the cancer in the body. And so, by combining that with immunotherapy drugs we’ve really found our ability to potentiate some of the effects of these immunotherapies. 

Most of this is basic science. There are some anecdotal case reports out there with some of the newer drugs that have just come out in the last year or two FDA-approved have been after chemoradiation and we think they really work together well. And some of the newer trials at Moffitt are gonna be trying to combine these things up front. And I know Dr. Gray has been helping to lead that effort with Dr. Perez and others within our kinda joint departments here.

Dr. Gray:                     

Yes. Absolutely. And so that work that Dr. Rosenberg was just talking about was actually developed at Moffitt. So, there’s a trial out there that’s now published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It led to the FDA approval of a drug called durvalumab (Imfinzi), which is actually named because the company, AstraZeneca, wanted to add durable responses and add value to patients. So, durvalumab is where the name came from, interestingly enough. 

And the study, what we wrote, was to look at those patients getting chemotherapy plus radiation therapy completing what’s considered standard of care therapy for those patients with that particular type of non-small cell lung cancer. And following this with an immunotherapy agent, the durvalumab, for one year. And it significantly improved the outcomes for patients. Patients are living much longer when we utilize this method. 

And now this has become the standard here in the United States. It’s working its way through the approval mechanisms over in Europe and through other companies. And I think this has really revolutionized how we approach and treat patients. And we are looking at – now we know it’s safe to give them sequentially. And so, can we safely and effectively—meaning can we actually improve outcomes for patients by moving these therapies upfront? 

And so, it would be giving a lot of therapies together. So, it would be chemotherapy plus immunotherapy plus radiation therapy to patients. But at the end of the day, the goal here is to improve our outcomes in a—and still maintain quality of life for patients. So, it’s always challenging pushing the bar and reaching these goals for our patients.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Page last updated on September 9, 2019