Chemo Adds Two Years for Lung Cancer Patients

In a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), researchers found that chemotherapy following surgery in patients with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer significantly lengthens life in many patients previously believed not to stand any benefit.

The study compared patients treated by chemo with vinorelbine and cisplatin to patients receiving the current standard of treatment, observation following surgery. Surgery alone increased the life span to 73 months while surgery and chemotherapy stretched it to 94.

“I’m going to try to stop smoking today – again,” said Gwen Miles, who is in her 50s and has been smoking most of her life.

According to Dr. Timothy Winton who conducted the study, “Vinorelbine and cisplatin together (collectively) attack on two different components of cell division and growth that has made this doublet effective in this disease.”

Olen Childers quit smoking years ago and never looked back while also not developing lung cancer. He has been one of the lucky ones.

Lung cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer in the U.S.

“I want to smoke so bad I can’t stand it,” said Brandy, 36, who is now trying to quit after years of smoking. “My husband who also quit recently said smoking is a character defect.”

The NJEM study was the first to show a substantial survival benefit of chemotherapy with few side effects following surgery in early stage, non-small cell lung cancer patients. Similar studies presented at two conferences sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology this year also shows the benefit of adjuvant chemotherapy in early stage non-small cell lung cancer patients. The chemotherapies studied in the NEJM research are two of several treatment options available for lung cancer patients. Increasingly, researchers and clinicians also are turning attention to target therapies, which specifically attack cancer cells while avoiding healthy ones.

The new findings represent a hopeful step forward for many patients with lung cancer.

As Dr. Katherine Pisters, a lung cancer specialist at M.D. Anderson Center in Texas, who wrote an accompanying editorial in the NEJM said, “We’ve never had anything in the lung cancer setting with this much benefit.”

Daryl wasn’t so lucky. He died of lung cancer in his early 40s while living in a residential facility for HIV and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency) patients since he also had AIDS. Before he died he met the love of his life, not his first wife but another resident who also had HIV or AIDS. It was bittersweet for the two of them and they shared a room up until Daryl passed away.

John Stephens, a recovering alcoholic, was stricken with lung cancer a couple of years ago after not drinking for over 20 years.

“I’m surprised he didn’t develop it sooner,” a friend said.

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