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Lung cancer expert says declining death rates ‘attributable to immunotherapy’

Some patients given 8-10 months to live now living five years or longer

CHICAGO - The American Cancer Society on Wednesday reported the largest one-year drop ever recorded in cancer mortality. The decline in the cancer death rate has been steady over the past 26 years, with lung cancer being one of the four most common cancer types to experience a long-term drop. 

Northwestern Medicine Director of Thoracic Oncology Dr. Jyoti Patel is available to speak to reporters today about factors that have attributed to this decline in lung cancer death rates.

Reporters should contact Kristin Samuelson at (office) 847-491-4888, (mobile) 847-769-6596 or ksamuelson@northwestern.edu to set up an interview with Dr. Patel.

Quotes from Dr. Patel:

“There’s been real advancement in treatment of all cancers, but this report demonstrates the significant decrease in lung cancer deaths.

“This is attributable to a number of factors, such as improvements in screening, surgery and radiation. The important factor, though, is the improvement in the treatment of patients in advanced disease. The real story here is the advent of immunotherapy. We have a number of FDA-approved immunotherapies for lung cancer patients. The statistics reported today by the American Cancer Society represent the adoption of this therapy for patients with lung cancer. 

“Around 15 to 20% of the patients who receive immunotherapy have very long survival. We’re still getting a handle on how long that is, but at this juncture, we can say that some are alive for five years or longer. Before the introduction of immunotherapy, they were given an average survival rate of about eight to 10 months. These are patients that were ready for hospice. It’s really exciting.

“We’re reaping the benefits of our investment in foundational science. The understanding of basic chemistry has really allowed us to get this far but we still have a long way to go in treating all subsets of patients. This includes investment in clinical trials.”