Lung cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancers prevalent globally. Immunotherapy has emerged as one of the most effective ways to control this disease. But, it causes several side effects to the patients. The common side effects of immunotherapy include but not restricted to attacking healthy tissues, swelling, itching, flu-like symptoms, pain etc. Immunotherapy can also result in severe side effects for at least 74% of those treated experience the adverse reaction. Also, up to 21% develop grade three or four toxicity which can lead to lifelong complications. These complications can result in stoppage of treatment and thus, the disease may progress. Interestingly, patients who experience side effects usually have more positive results with cancer progression in comparison with those who do not.
A new study conducted by researchers at Edith Cowan University has discovered that human leukocyte antigens (HLAs) can predict how the lung cancer patient will respond to immunotherapy. The study supervisor Associate Professor, Elin Gray, described immunotherapy as a double-edged sword but researchers have made a critical breakthrough. No doubt, immunotherapy unleash the immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells but they also unleash the immune cells to attack the body and thus, causing toxicities.
“Our research shows for the first time that certain genetic features predispose cancer patients to develop side effects or toxicities to anti-cancer therapy. Knowing this will allow doctors to improve the treatment given to patients,” he said. The researchers have examined the HLAs of 179 patients with NSCLC, revealing a strong link between the genetic makeup of HLAs and whether the patient would develop immunotherapy side effects. This discovery would benefit all lung cancer patients, irrespective of whether they are genetically predisposed to adverse reactions to immunotherapy or not. Biomarkers that predict the risk of immune-mediated adverse events may work to reduce the risk associated with lung cancer treatments.
The information shared in this blog is for educational purposes and is certainly not a substitute for medical advice.