Why is lung cancer so difficult to treat?

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers across the world and treating it is incredibly challenging. A new study investigates how the immune response to tumor cells may be tweaked to improve survival rates.

Affecting both men and women, lung cancer accounts for around 14 percent of all new cancer diagnoses.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimated that, in 2018, there will be more than 234,000 new cases of lung cancer and over 154,000 deaths to it.

Each year, more people die from lung cancer than they do from breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined.

One reason that the prognosis for lung cancer is so poor is that only around 20 percent of cases respond to immunotherapies. This is significantly lower than other cancers.

Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) in Germany are trying to work out what it is about lung cancer that makes immune-based treatments so hit and miss.

Lung cancer and immunity

Lead researcher Dr. Susetta Finotto, the head of the Department of Molecular Pneumology at FAU, puts it simply. “Sometimes the body’s immune system responds to lung cancer but sometimes it fails, letting the cancer take over.”

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