St. Rita’s health focus: Advances in treating lung cancer


Dr. Chris Rhoades - Guest Column

Did you know that lung cancer is the No. 1 one cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States? In the U.S. alone, 225,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer yearly. The primary risk factor for the development of lung cancer is the use of cigarettes. Ninety percent of all forms of lung cancer are associated with cigarette exposure. Using tobacco also increases the risk of developing cancer throughout someone’s lifetime.

As with most forms of cancer, early detection is key when it comes to survival. This is also true for lung cancer. Lung cancer, in the early stages, is difficult to detect due to the lack of visible symptoms. But recently there has been a development of screening programs in high-risk individuals. These programs aid in finding lung cancer in early stages in these high-risk patients. Mercy Health – St. Rita’s is providing these screenings for patients who meet these guidelines.

Most major forms of lung cancer primarily respond to therapy. These forms can be categorized as non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. Both categories have a different response to therapy and are categorized separately. Small-cell lung cancer tends to be more responsive to radiation and/or chemotherapy treatment. The primary form of therapy for early-stage lung cancer is surgical resection, the removal of an organ or gland. Radiation and/or chemotherapy may also be involved in the therapy of early-stage lung cancer.

In stage IV lung cancer, the tumor has grown to areas outside of the lung or chest. Stage IV can be treatable but it not likely curable with aggressive therapy. Patients diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer need a form of chemotherapy treatment.

Over the past year, there has been a dramatic change in the options of therapy for advanced stage IV lung cancer. New options have paved the way for an increase in pace for advanced lung cancer treatments. One of the new FDA approved treatments in immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is the most exciting area of development and treatment.

Approximately 80 percent of all forms of lung cancer are non-small cell lung cancer. Recently, FDA has approved several new immunotherapy options for treatment. Immunotherapy defers when compared to more conventional standard chemotherapy treatment. Standard chemotherapies are aimed at controlling rapid dividing cancer cells. Immunotherapy’s has three basic concepts of treatment effects. These treatment effects differ from standard chemotherapy treatment. The first is to help the body identify cancer as being foreign to the body by the immune system. Second is to aid in the immune responsiveness against cancer. The third and final is to decrease the inhibition of the immune system that allows for tumor cell growth.

The development of specific molecular genetic analysis out-dates the new immunotherapy treatments. The new treatment options are still considered palliative therapy. But, they represent a significant advance against the fight against lung cancer. With further research and clinical trials, scientists hope to develop more treatment. Their hope is to develop long-term survival treatments that will be considered a curative therapy.

The development of immunotherapy is being used to treat other forms of cancer. The development of this treatment has been possible thanks to increased research. Researching individual characteristics of cancers has led to an increase in developing treatments. In the future, most forms of cancer will be identified with molecular and genetic codes. These codes will lead to specific therapies for each individual diagnosed. The development of immunotherapy is only the beginning. Immunotherapy has created an exciting time in cancer research and personalized cancer care.

Dr. Chris Rhoades

Guest Column

Dr. Chris Rhoades is a medical oncologist at Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Cancer Center. To schedule an appointment, call 419-226-9518.

Dr. Chris Rhoades is a medical oncologist at Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Cancer Center. To schedule an appointment, call 419-226-9518.

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