Immunotherapy drugs are used to treat some non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) that have spread outside the lung or to other parts of the body.

About immunotherapy drugs for lung cancer

Immunotherapy is the name given to cancer treatments that use the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells. This can help:

  • shrink the tumour
  • make it grow less quickly.

Immunotherapy drugs are used to treat non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that has spread outside the lung or to other parts of the body.

Your doctor does tests on the cancer cells called molecular testing. These tests help find out if some of these drugs are suitable options for you. The doctor does the tests on the tissue they take during a biopsy or surgery, or occasionally on a blood test.

Some immunotherapy drugs are available to treat some non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). These are:

You usually have them after you have already had chemotherapy or other targeted drugs. Or if molecular testing shows pembrolizumab is likely to work well for you, you might have it as your first treatment.

Your doctor might talk to you about having some of these drugs as part of a clinical trial. Newer immunotherapy drugs are being developed and becoming available.

Side effects of immunotherapy drugs for lung cancer

Some of the common side effects of these immunotherapy drugs are:

Because of the way immunotherapy drugs work, they can make the immune system attack other parts of the body. This is not common, but it can cause serious side effects in the:

  • lungs
  • other organs
  • glands that make certain hormones.

Sometimes the treatment may need to be stopped. You may need to take steroids to suppress your immune system.

Your doctor or nurse will explain all these side effects to you. It is very important to tell them about any side effects you get during treatment or after treatment finishes.