Research into lung cancer treatment
This page of the lung cancer section is about research into lung cancer treatments. There is information about
- A quick guide to what's on this page
- Why we need research
- The research process
- Testing for changes in genes
- Radiotherapy research for lung cancer
- Chemotherapy research for lung cancer
- Radiotherapy and chemotherapy
- Biological therapy research for lung cancer
- Research into surgery for lung cancer
- Microwave treatment research
- Smoking after diagnosis
- Blood thinning drugs for lung cancer
- Statins and lung cancer
- Diabetes drugs in lung cancer research
- Research into treating a blocked airway
- Radiotherapy for cancer cells in the brain
- Symptoms of cancer that has come back
- More about lung cancer treatment research
Lung cancer research
All treatments must be fully researched before they can be adopted as standard treatment for everyone. This is so that we can be sure they work better than the treatments we already use. And so we know that they are safe.
First of all, treatments are developed and tested in laboratories. Only after we know that they are likely to be safe to test are they tested in people, in clinical trials. Cancer Research UK supports a lot of UK laboratory research into cancer and also supports many UK and international clinical trials.
Researchers are looking into new treatments and also new ways of using existing treatments. These include
- Biological therapies
- Microwave treatment
- Blood thinning drugs
- Cholesterol reducing drugs
- Diabetes drugs
- Unblocking an airway
Other research is focusing on trying to find out which symptoms could show that a lung cancer has come back.
View a summary of treating lung cancer.
All treatments have to be fully researched before they can be adopted as standard treatment for everyone. This is so that
- We can be sure that they work
- We can be sure they work better than the treatments that are available at the moment
- They are known to be safe
First of all, treatments are developed and tested in laboratories. For ethical and safety reasons, experimental treatments must be tested in the laboratory before they can be tried in patients. If a treatment described here is said to be at the laboratory stage of research, it is not ready for patients and is not available either within or outside the NHS. Cancer Research UK supports a lot of UK laboratory research into cancer.
Tests in patients are called clinical trials. Cancer Research UK supports many UK and international clinical trials.
Our trials and research section has information about what trials are including information about the 4 phases of clinical trials. If you are interested in taking part in a trial, visit our searchable database of clinical trials.
If there is a trial you are interested in, print it off and take it to your own specialist. If the trial is suitable for you, your doctor will need to make the referral to the research team. The database also has information about closed trials and trial results.
The video below tells you more about clinical trials:
Doctors decide how to treat cancer by looking at factors such as what type of cancer it is, its size and how far it has grown (the stage), and what the cancer cells look like under the microscope (the grade). This works for many people but not for all. This could be because there are slight differences in the cancer cells from person to person, even if they have the same type of cancer.
Researchers have been looking at the differences between cancer cells caused by changes in the genes. They now want to find a way to test for these genetic changes. In the future, doctors hope they can match treatment to the gene changes in cancer cells. This is called stratified medicine.
In the SMP2 study, researchers are collecting samples of cancer tissue from people with non small cell lung cancer. They will test the cells for genetic changes and will gather information about what treatment the people have and what happens to them. They are also looking at what the costs are for this type of testing and how it can be used as part of routine care for cancer patients in the future.
The National Lung Matrix trial is now looking at a number of new drugs for non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The treatment will depend on changes to genes in the cancer cells. The people taking part have either squamous cell carcinoma or adenocarcinoma, and cannot have surgery or radiotherapy. The researchers want to find out how well the treatments work and how safe they are, and understand more about which genetic changes are linked to drug resistance and why some people benefit from treatment but others do not.
Radiotherapy can help to control lung cancer but it does not work well for everyone. Researchers want to develop better tests to work out who will respond to radiotherapy before they start treatment. They also want to see if they can tell who is at the most risk of side effects.
The RADAR study is being partly funded by Cancer Research UK. It is looking at genes and proteins (biomarkers) in the blood and cancer tissue of people who are having radiotherapy for lung cancer or who have already finished it. The researchers will also use special PET scans and MRI scans to look at how radiotherapy affects healthy and cancerous lung tissue.
A small study has been looking into planning radical radiotherapy for people with non small cell lung cancer using a 4D CT scan. This scan takes into account the way your chest moves when you breathe. Doctors hope that this will help them minimise the amount of healthy tissue that is exposed to radiotherapy. This study is no longer recruiting patients, and we are waiting for the results.
Another study is looking at a new type of MRI scan called Helium 3 MRI to see how well the lung tissue not affected by cancer is working. The scan shows healthy lung tissue more clearly than other scans. This may help doctors to target the radiotherapy at the cancer more clearly and reduce the risk of scarring of healthy lung tissue due to the radiotherapy (radiation pneumonitis). This type of scan may also help the doctors to see how well radiotherapy works for non small cell lung cancer.
Some studies are trying giving radiotherapy in different doses than usual. A higher dose of radiotherapy given over a shorter time than usual is called dose escalated radiotherapy. Some trials are combining different ways of giving radiotherapy with chemotherapy. Having both treatments together is called chemoradiation.
The REST trial looked at giving radiotherapy to the chest after chemotherapy for people with small cell lung cancer (SCLC) that had spread beyond the lungs (extensive disease). The trial team found that radiotherapy to the chest delayed the cancer coming back and could help people live longer if their cancer had responded to chemotherapy. You can read the results for the REST trial on our clinical trials database.
Doctors know that radiotherapy can help people with non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Now with modern radiotherapy techniques, doctors want to find out more. The aim of the LungART trial is to see if giving radiotherapy after surgery helps to stop NSCLC from coming back. The researchers also hope to find out more about the side effects of radiotherapy after lung cancer surgery.
The I-START trial is looking at higher dose radiotherapy for non small cell lung cancer. The researchers think that giving a higher dose of radiotherapy may kill off more cancer cells. But they want to do this without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue such as the food pipe (oesophagus). This early trial aims to find out the maximum safe dose of radiotherapy to the food pipe, how well this dose works, and whether this causes more or worse side effects. This trial has now closed and we are waiting for the results.
You can find lung cancer trials on our clinical trials database. If you want to see all the trials, tick the boxes for closed trials and trial results.
Chemotherapy is the main treatment for small cell lung cancer and is also commonly used for non small cell lung cancer. Research continues into improving the timing and doses of drugs used. And researchers also hope to find new combinations of drugs that may give better results. Examples of drugs being tested in trials in the UK include
- Taxol (paclitaxel)
- Mitomycin C
- RAD 001 (Certican)
Trials are also looking into other aspects of chemotherapy such as
- Having chemotherapy at home
- Combining chemotherapy with other drugs
- Resistance to chemotherapy
- Proteins that affect how chemotherapy works
- Reducing chemotherapy side effects
Researchers are also looking into where patients have treatment. Some hospitals have been looking at giving chemotherapy capsules or tablets, such as topotecan (Hycamtin) capsules, to people in their own homes. One study is looking at giving pemetrexed at home through a drip into a vein. Having treatment at home rather than having to go into hospital may give people a better quality of life.
Researchers also try to combine different types of treatment in new ways to improve results. A phase 2 trial looked at having the chemotherapy drug pemetrexed, a type of biological therapy called erlotinib (Tarceva), or a combination of both. The people taking part had NSCLC that was locally advanced or had spread to another part of the body, and were non smokers. The trial showed that having both drugs together worked better. The people having both drugs did have more side effects, but these were manageable. You can read the results of this trial on our clinical trials database.
Another trial (The TS Study) is looking at whether a substance produced in the body (thymidylate synthase) affects how well the chemotherapy drugs pemetrexed and cisplatin work in people with non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
An international trial added a new type of biological therapy called vandetanib (Caprelsa) to the chemotherapy docetaxel (Taxotere) for people who had already had chemotherapy for advanced NSCLC. Vandetanib is a cancer growth blocker. The results showed that the combination of the 2 drugs worked slightly better than docetaxel on its own. We need more research to confirm this.
A common problem with many cancers is that they become resistant to chemotherapy after one or more courses of treatment. In other words, the chemotherapy works well at first, but future courses do not help as much. The CHEMORES study aims to understand more about why chemotherapy to treat lung cancer can stop working. It is looking for changes in blood and tissue samples before and after chemotherapy for lung cancer. It aims to try to find out how cancer cells stop themselves being harmed by chemotherapy.
Research has also involved a drug called decitabine to see if it can make resistant cells respond to chemotherapy drugs again. Researchers at Cancer Research UK are also studying a protein called FGF-2 that may be involved in helping cancer cells survive chemotherapy. They want to find out if it is possible to block this protein. One trial is testing a drug called LY218308. Researchers want to see if it can help to stop non small cell lung cancer cells becoming resistant to the chemotherapy drug docetaxel.
A trial is checking if chemotherapy without platinum drugs works better than platinum based chemotherapy in people with high levels of a body protein called ERCC1. ERCC1 helps to repair damage to cancer cells caused by platinum drugs. So the trial wants to find out if different chemotherapy may work better for people who have high levels of ERCC1. You can find out about the ERCC1 trial on our clinical trials database.
Apatorsen (OGX-427) is a new drug that targets a protein in the body called Hsp27. This protein helps cancer cells protect themselves from cancer treatment. Hsp27 is only found in some types of lung cancer. The CEDAR trial is looking at gemcitabine and carboplatin chemotherapy with apatorsen for squamous cell NSCLC that has spread. The researchers think that blocking Hsp27, or removing it from cancer cells, might help the chemotherapy work better.
One trial is looking at reducing chemotherapy side effects. It is recruiting people who are having chemotherapy to help control the growth and symptoms of non small lung cancer. Doctors often use palliative chemotherapy to help lessen the symptoms of non small cell lung cancer. But sometimes chemotherapy can make the leg muscles weak.
You can find lung cancer trials on our clinical trials database. If you want to see all the trials, tick the boxes for closed trials and trial results.
Some research trials are looking at different ways of giving radiotherapy alongside chemotherapy for lung cancer. One example is the CONVERT trial for small cell lung cancer. Doctors want to find out if the radiotherapy works better if it is given once a day, or twice a day over a shorter period of time.
There is another trial comparing a combination of pemetrexed and cisplatin chemotherapy plus radiotherapy with etoposide and cisplatin chemotherapy plus radiotherapy. This trial is for people with non small cell lung cancer that has spread into structures close to the lung. Doctors want to find out whether pemetrexed or etoposide work better in combination with the other treatments.
A recent meta analysis looked at having chemotherapy and radiotherapy together (concurrent treatment) rather than having radiotherapy after chemotherapy (sequential treatment). It found that having chemotherapy and radiotherapy together works better for people with locally advanced non small cell lung cancer.
There is more information about these trials on our clinical trials database.
Biological therapies use substances made naturally in the body to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. Current research in lung cancer is looking at
- Targeting faulty genes
- Erlotinib (Tarceva)
- Gefitinib (Iressa)
- Cetuximab (Erbitux)
- Ipilimimab (Yervoy)
- Bevacizumab (Avastin)
- ADI-PEG 20
- Growth blockers
- Using your immune system (immunotherapy)
- Cancer vaccines
In lung cancer, researchers are working on drugs that can correct damage to the p53 gene so that it will work normally again. P53 is a tumour suppressor gene that repairs genes that are damaged and are encouraging cells to grow abnormally. P53 is damaged in a lot of different types of cancer, including lung cancer. This is early research and this treatment is still at the experimental stage.
This drug is used to treat patients with advanced non small cell lung cancer that has continued to grow despite having chemotherapy or who are too unwell to have chemotherapy. It is a type of drug known as a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. It works by blocking epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR) on cells.
Large international trials have found that erlotinib can increase the length of time that the cancer is controlled for some people compared to chemotherapy. Trials are going on in the UK to find the best way of using this drug. Some trials are using erlotinib as a first treatment for advanced non small cell lung cancer. Some trials are using it combined with chemotherapy or other biological therapy drugs. Doctors also want to find out more about the side effects of erlotinib.
We have more information about erlotinib side effects.
This drug is used as a treatment for people with locally advanced or metastatic non small cell lung cancer. It is approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for people with non small cell lung cancer that is locally advanced or has spread, provided they have not had any other treatment for their cancer. To get the drug, people must test positive for an alteration (mutation) on a growth factor receptor that the drug acts on called epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase (EGFR-TK).
NICE say that between 10 and 15 people out of every 100 with non small cell lung cancer (10 to 15%) have the EGR-TK mutation. The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has decided not to recommend gefitinib as a first line treatment within the NHS in Scotland. Research is continuing to try to find the best way of using gefitinib.
We have more information about gefitinib side effects.
Another biological therapy drug called cetuximab has also been used, with chemotherapy, in trials for advanced non small cell lung cancer. Cetuximab is a monoclonal antibody which blocks growth factor receptors on cells. The early results were encouraging, in terms of helping people to live longer. However, in July 2009 the European Medicines Agency (EMA) did not licence it for non small cell lung cancer. Trials are still going on in Europe and the US.
We have more information about cetuximab side effects.
This is a type of drug called a monoclonal antibody. Doctors are looking at using this alongside chemotherapy. A trial compared ramucirumab and docetaxel chemotherapy with docetaxel alone in people with advanced NSCLC. The trial team found that the combination of drugs helped people to live longer compared to docetaxel alone.
Nivolumab is another monoclonal antibody. It works by blocking a substance called PD-1. Blocking PD-1 helps the body's immune system to attack cancer cells. Two phase 3 trials have recently showed that people with advanced non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) lived longer on average with nivolumab compared to docetaxel chemotherapy. The trial teams also reported fewer side effects with nivolumab than docetaxel.
The CheckMate 057 trial looked at nivolumab for advanced non squamous cell NSCLC that had come back or continued to grow after platinum chemotherapy. Of the 582 people who took part, half had nivolumab and the other half had docetaxel. The trial team found the people who had nivolumab lived an average of 3 months longer than those treated with docetaxel (around 12 months compared to around 9 months). The researchers found that a subgroup of patients whose cancers produced large amounts of a protein called PD-L1 had a greater response. Common side effects of nivolumab included tiredness (fatigue), sickness, loss of appetite, weakness and diarrhoea.
The CheckMate 017 (CA209017) trial looked at nivolumab for advanced squamous cell NSCLC that had come back or continued to grow after platinum chemotherapy. Of the 272 people who took part, half were treated with nivolumab and the other half had docetaxel. The trial team found that the people who had nivolumab lived an average of 3 months longer than those treated with docetaxel (around 9 months compared to 6 months). The researchers found that, unlike CheckMate 057, the levels of PD-L1 did not have an effect on the response to nivolumab. More research is needed to find biomarkers to help doctors predict which patients are most likely to benefit from this treatment.
Research continues to look at nivolumab in other trials for lung cancer. The CheckMate 026 (CA209026) trial is looking at nivolumab as a first treatment for NSCLC that has spread to another part of the body. This trial has closed and we are waiting for the results.
This is a treatment for advanced melanoma. It works by stimulating T-cells in the body’s immune system. T-cells help to fight cancer and disease. CTLA-4 is a molecule found on the surface of T-cells and it switches them off. Ipilimumab blocks CTLA-4 so that the T-cells stay switched on and active and can attack the cancer cells.
The ICE trial is looking at using ipilimumab with chemotherapy to treat small cell lung cancer that has spread beyond the lung (extensive disease). The trial aims to find out if giving ipilimumab with chemotherapy helps to delay or stop small cell lung cancer coming back. Researchers also want to find out more about the side effects. This trial has closed and we are waiting for the results.
The CA184156 trial is also looking at ipilimumab with chemotherapy for people recently diagnosed with small cell lung cancer (extensive stage disease). This trial has closed and we are waiting for the results.
The IDEATE trial is looking at ipilimumab with carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy for NSCLC that has spread to another part of the body or come back after treatment. The researchers think that combining ipilimumab with chemotherapy may be better than chemotherapy alone to treat advanced NSCLC. The researchers also want to find out how safe this combination of treatment is and to learn more about the side effects. This trial has closed and we are waiting for the results.
We have more information about ipilimumab side effects.
MEDI4736 is a new monoclonal antibody. It seeks out cancer cells by looking for a particular protein and attaching to it. Researchers think this may help the immune system to attack the cancer and stop it growing. The ATLANTIC trial is looking at MEDI4736 for advanced NSCLC. The researchers want to find out how well MEDI4736 works for NSCLC, what happens to the drug in the body, and if it helps the immune system to attack the cancer.
The ARCTIC trial is looking at MEDI4736 and another monoclonal antibody called tremelimumab for NSCLC that has spread. Tremelimumab also works by triggering the immune system to attack cancer cells. The type of treatment you have in this trial depends if your lung cancer cells have a gene change (mutation). The doctors will test this before you start treatment.
This is also called Avastin. It is a monoclonal antibody (MAB) that stops cancers making blood vessels. Bevacizumab is licensed in Europe to treat advanced non small cell lung cancer. It is used in combination with platinum based chemotherapy, such as cisplatin or carboplatin. But this treatment has not been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Exellence (NICE). An American study published in 2012 looked at adding bevacizumab to chemotherapy in people who were older than 65 years with stage 3B or stage 4 non small cell lung cancer. The results showed that adding bevacizumab didn't work any better than the chemotherapy alone.
The CA196005 trial is comparing bevacizumab with a new biological therapy CT-322 alongside treatment with chemotherapy for advanced non small cell lung cancer or NSCLC that has come back after surgery or radiotherapy. Like bevacizumab, CT-322 stops the cancer from growing blood vessels. The aim of this study is to see if the drug combination of paclitaxel, carboplatin and CT-322 helps people with advanced NSCLC more than paclitaxel, carboplatin and bevacizumab.
The BELIEF trial is looking at bevacizumab and erlotinib for NSCLC that has spread and has changes to genes affecting a protein called EGFR. The researchers want to see how well the 2 drugs work for advanced NSCLC and to learn more about the side effects. This trial has now closed and we are waiting for the results.
We have more information about bevacizumab side effects.
Denosumab is another type of monoclonal antibody. A phase 2 trial is looking at giving denosumab with chemotherapy for NSCLC that has spread to another part of the body. The researchers want to find out more about how denosumab works in people with NSCLC. And how it works alongside platinum chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin and carboplatin.
This is a type of drug called a PARP inhibitor. It blocks an enzyme that cancer cells need to repair themselves and grow. The STOMP trial is looking at olaparib for people with small cell lung cancer (SCLC) who have already had one other treatment. The researchers want to see if olaparib can delay or prevent SCLC coming back. This is called maintenance therapy. They will compare olaparib with a dummy drug (placebo). The PIN trial is comparing olaparib with placebo after chemotherapy for advanced NSCLC.
Veliparib is another PARP inhibitor. A trial is looking at veliparib and chemotherapy for squamous cell NSCLC. It is for people who cannot have surgery to remove their cancer, or radiotherapy with the aim of curing their cancer. The researchers want to find out if veliparib and chemotherapy is a better treatment than chemotherapy alone, and how the combined treatment affects quality of life.
Another trial is looking at veliparib and chemotherapy for all types of NSCLC except squamous cell cancer. The people taking part have advanced cancer.
This is a new type of biological therapy for people with advanced non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that has an overactive version of a protein called ALK. ALK plays an important role in controlling cell growth and survival. Crizotinib works by blocking ALK and stopping the growth of cancer cells. About 1 in 20 people with lung cancer have overactive ALK on their cancer cells.
Trials are looking at crizotinib for advanced non small cell lung cancers that have the abnormal ALK gene. Some trials are comparing crizotinib with chemotherapy. They aim to find out if crizotinib is better than chemotherapy as a first treatment for this type of NSCLC.
We have more information about crizotinib side effects.
A trial is comparing a drug called LDK378 with chemotherapy for advanced NSCLC that has changes to the ALK protein (ALK positive NSCLC). The people taking part have already had treatment with crizotinib and chemotherapy that included a platinum drug. The researchers want to find out if LDK378 works better than pemetrexed or docetaxel chemotherapy for this group of patients. This trial has now closed and we are waiting for the results.
The MARQUEE trial is looking at a new drug called tivantinib (also known as ARQ 197). It is a type of tyrosine kinase inhibitor. The trial is giving it alongside erlotinib for non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that has got worse despite having other treatment. It is for types of NSCLC that are described as non squamous, such as adenocarcinoma or large cell carcinoma. The trial aims to find out if a combination of erlotinib and tivantinib helps people with advanced NSCLC more than erlotinib alone.
Selumetinib works by targeting a protein called MEK and stops signals that cancer cells use to divide and grow. Researchers for the SELECT-1 trial think that combining selumetinib with docetaxel may improve treatment for NSCLC that has spread into surrounding tissues (locally advanced) or to other areas of the body (advanced). The trial will compare docetaxel and selumetinib with docetaxel and a dummy drug (placebo).
This drug is a new type of biological therapy. It works by blocking 3 different HER (Human Epidermal Growth Factor) proteins. These proteins are found on lung cancer cells and may help them grow and multiply. Some trials are comparing dacomitinib with other biological therapies to find out which are better at stopping advanced non small cell lung cancer getting worse.
This drug is a new type of biological therapy called a heat shock protein 90 inhibitor. It stops signals that cancer cells use to divide and grow. In the GALAXY-2 trial, doctors want to find out if ganetespib and docetaxel chemotherapy works better than docetaxel on its own for advanced NSCLC. They also want to learn more about the side effects of this combination of treatment and how they affect quality of life.
The TIMELY trial is looking at afatinib for people with NSCLC who cannot have chemotherapy. Afatinib works by targeting the protein called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Drugs that target EGFR are more likely to work if the cancer cells have a change (mutation) to a particular gene. People with lung cancer who have never smoked or were light smokers in the past, are more likely to have cancer with this gene change. For that reason, the people taking part in this study are non smokers. They have a type of NSCLC called adenocarcinoma. This trial has now closed and we are waiting for the results.
The ABLE trial is looking at afatinib before surgery for early stage NSCLC. The researchers want to find out if afatinib shrinks your tumour before surgery, and how your cancer cells change through the treatment. They also want to see if they can identify particular genes and proteins linked to whether afatinib works well or not, and to learn more about the side effects.
In a small number of people with NSCLC there is a change in a gene called BRAF. The BRAF gene makes a protein that affects how cancers divide and grow. Dabrafenib (Tafinlar) blocks the BRAF protein, and is called a BRAF inhibitor. A study is looking at dabrafenib for people with advanced NSCLC, who have a change in the BRAF gene. The researchers want to find out how well this treatment works and its side effects.
In the laboratory, researchers have found that small cell lung cancer cells are destroyed by removing an amino acid called arginine. Arginine helps with many different jobs in the body, including cell growth. Researchers think that removing arginine, by using the new drug ADI-PEG 20 (pegylated arginine deiminase), may be a way of stopping cancer growth. Researchers for the study looking at ADI-PEG 20 want to see how well it works for small cell lung cancer and how safe it is.
There is a trial looking at two new drugs combined with chemotherapy. The drugs are growth blockers called ganitumab (AMG 479) and AMG 102. The trial is testing how they work in combination with etoposide and either carboplatin or cisplatin chemotherapy in people with advanced small cell lung cancer. AMG 479 blocks a growth factor receptor called insulin like growth factor receptor (IGFR), and AMG 102 blocks the hepatocyte growth factor receptor. Both drugs have been tested in people with advanced cancer, but this study is looking at how well AMG 479 and AMG 102 work with chemotherapy for small cell lung cancer.
One trial is testing a new drug that blocks a cell signalling system called the PI3K pathway. This trial is looking at BKM120 for people with non small cell lung cancer that has spread. Researchers hope that blocking PI3K proteins may help to stop the lung cancer cells from growing. The aim of the trial is to see if BKM120 helps people who have non small cell lung cancer that has come back, despite having other treatment. This trial has closed and we are waiting for the results.
Another trial is looking at a new drug called AUY922 for advanced non small cell lung cancer. We know from laboratory studies that AUY922 can stop cancer cells with high levels of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR positive) from growing. In this trial, researchers will compare AUY922 with the chemotherapy drugs pemetrexed and docetaxel. This trial has now closed and we are waiting for the results.
Another new cancer growth blocker is AZD9291. The AURA3 trial is comparing AZD9291 with chemotherapy for NSCLC that has spread to another part of the body. The people taking part have lung cancer that has a change in the epidermal growth factor receptor called T790M. The researchers will test for this change at the beginning of the trial to see if you can take part. They can use a sample of tissue from a previous biopsy, or you may need another biopsy taken. This trial has now closed and we are waiting for the results.
Some drugs called anti-PD-1 immunotherapy are designed to boost the natural ability of the immune system to recognise and target cancer cells. Pembrolizumab (also called MK3475) is one of these drugs. It blocks a protein called PD-1. PD-1 stops some immune cells from working properly. Blocking PD-1 can trigger the immune system to find and destroy the cancer cells. MK3475 has been tested in early trials for NSCLC and some other types of cancer. The initial results have been promising and more studies are being carried out.
A trial is comparing MK3475 with docetaxel chemotherapy for NSCLC. The people taking part have already had treatment with a chemotherapy drug from the platinum drugs group such as carboplatin or cisplatin. The researchers are comparing 2 different doses of MK3475 with docetaxel. They want to find out how well MK3475 works, how safe it is and how it affects quality of life. Another trial is comparing MK3475 with chemotherapy for advanced NSCLC. This trial has now closed and we are waiting for the results.
The PEARL trial is looking at a type of immunotherapy to help delay or stop NSCLC coming back after surgery. The researchers are testing a new treatment called PRAME immunotherapy. It works by teaching your immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells. You have injections of an antigen that is found in some tumours (PRAME antigen). To help your immune system, another substance called an adjuvant is added to the antigen. The adjuvant is a mixture of natural and manmade substances that help the immune system to respond. The aims of the trial are to see if PRAME immunotherapy is safe and works for NSCLC, and to learn more about the side effects. This trial has now closed and we are waiting for the results.
This type of treatment is designed to help treat cancer by stimulating the immune system to attack the cancer cells. The START trial looked at a vaccine called tecemotide (used to be called Stimuvax) after chemotherapy and radiotherapy for stage 3 non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The researchers found that the vaccine was safe to use but overall tecemotide didn't help this group of people live longer.
The MAGRIT trial tested a vaccine called MAGE-A3 ASCI. The MAGE-A3 ASCI teaches immune cells to recognise a protein called MAGE-A3, found on some types of non small cell lung cancer cells. The theory was that the immune cells would then find and kill the lung cancer cells. But the vaccine did not seem to help to control the cancer or help people to live longer. Researchers hope that the vaccine may work better for some other types of cancer, such as melanoma skin cancer.
Another trial is testing a vaccine called Lucanix for people who have already had chemotherapy for advanced non small cell lung cancer. The trial aims to find out if having Lucanix after chemotherapy can help people with non small lung cancer to live longer. The researchers also want to learn about the side effects of Lucanix.
A trial is looking at an EGF cancer vaccine alongside chemotherapy for non small cell lung cancer that cannot be removed with surgery. Growth factors are natural body chemicals that control cell growth. They work by plugging into receptors which send signals telling the cells to divide and grow. Non small cell lung cancer cells often have a large number of receptors for a growth factor called EGF. The vaccine in this trial targets EGF and stops it attaching to the cancer cell receptors. The researchers hope that giving the vaccine with chemotherapy will help people with advanced NSCLC to live longer.
We have more information explaining cancer vaccines.
You can find trials for lung cancer on our clinical trials database. If you want to see all the trials, tick the boxes for closed trials and trial results.
Doctors often treat lung cancer with surgery. There are 2 main ways to remove a lobe of the lung (lobectomy). One way is open surgery. This involves making a cut in the chest. Another way is a type of keyhole surgery called video assisted thoracoscopic surgery (or VATS). This is done through several smaller cuts in the chest. The surgeon uses a camera (laparoscope) to see inside the body to remove the cancer. Surgeons currently use both types of surgery but they don’t know which works best. The VIOLET study is comparing these 2 types of surgery. The main aims are to find out what patients think of keyhole and open surgery, and to compare the side effects and cost of the 2 methods.
There is a research study trying to find ways of helping people to recover more quickly after surgery for early stage lung cancer. Getting back to normal is called rehabilitation. The study is comparing normal care with a rehabilitation programme after surgery to remove lung cancer.
The rehabilitation programme includes exercise, education and guidance on what to eat, and help to stop smoking. The study aims to see if the rehabilitation programme can shorten the time spent in hospital, lower the risk of complications and improve your quality of life.
The ErLaPara study is looking at pain control after having surgery for lung cancer or mesothelioma of the lung. After surgery doctors control pain with a drug that numbs the nerves in the area (local anaesthetic). You usually have this through a thin plastic tube that the surgeon places in your chest near the wound. The doctor usually starts this at the end of surgery. The researchers think that pain may be better controlled if the local anaesthetic was started soon after the start of surgery instead. The people taking part will complete questionnaires about any pain they may have on the first couple of days after surgery. This trial has now closed and we are waiting for the results.
Doctors and researchers are looking into using microwave treatment for lung cancer. They call it microwave ablation. There is evidence from some studies that microwave treatment can work in controlling the cancer in the lung for a time. But there is no evidence at the moment that this procedure helps people to live longer or improves their quality of life.
In 2013 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) assessed microwave treatment. They say that doctors can use it to treat patients with lung cancer. But they must explain that it is not clear how much it will help them and that we need more research.
How you have microwave treatment
The microwave treatment aims to destroy the tumour cells and gives very little damage to the surrounding normal tissues. It can treat quite large tumours. You have the treatment under local anaesthetic with a medicine to make you drowsy. Or you may have it under a general anaesthetic. The surgeon puts a microwave probe through the skin over the area of the tumour in the lung. They use X-ray or ultrasound to make sure the probe is in the right place.
Then the probe gives out high frequency microwave energy to destroy the tumour cells. Sometimes the doctor may use more than one probe during the treatment session.
Possible side effects
As this treatment is quite new there is not much information about side effects. But some people in the trials had a collapsed lung (pneumothorax) soon afterwards. A small number of people had bleeding into the lung (haemothorax), heat damage to structures near the lung, and pain caused by heat on the skin of the chest.
The LungCAST study is looking at whether smoking affects how well lung cancer treatment works. Some researchers believe that smoking after diagnosis may affect the outcome of the lung cancer. They think it could be possible that smoking affects levels of anti cancer treatment in the blood and body tissue.
We know from laboratory research that smoking can make some cancer cells more resistant to chemotherapy. And smoking can affect oxygen levels in cancers, making radiotherapy work less well. We don't know at the moment whether smoking after diagnosis does affect lung cancer treatment. So this study aims to find out whether smoking after a diagnosis of lung cancer affects survival.
The FRAGMATIC trial is looking at whether blood thinning drugs can improve treatment for lung cancer. Blood clots are quite common in people who have lung cancer. And cancer treatment can increase the risk of blood clots. Dalteparin is a blood thinning drug (anticoagulant), also called Fragmin. It is used to prevent and treat blood clots. Doctors think that dalteparin may also affect how cancer cells spread through the bloodstream, but they don't know for sure.
So this trial gave dalteparin alongside standard treatment for lung cancer to half the people taking part. Researchers are checking to see if it reduced the number of blood clots people got. And they will also see if it can help to stop cancer cells spreading through the bloodstream to other parts of the body.
These are medicines that people usually take to lower their cholesterol. Doctors think that they may also have an effect on cancer cells and they want to find out more about this. The LungStar trial is looking at whether adding a drug called pravastatin to chemotherapy can make it work better for advanced small cell lung cancer.
Several studies have shown that metformin and other diabetes drugs known as thiazolidedione (TZDs) may slow the growth of lung cancer and help some lung cancer patients live longer. A large study reported at a lung cancer meeting in 2010. It found that people taking anti diabetes drugs are generally less likely to get lung cancer. If they do get it, it is less likely to spread and people also tend to live longer. The reason for this is not known. But some research shows that metformin triggers an enzyme, called AMP activated protein kinase, which blocks a protein called mTOR. mTOR can trigger lung cancer cell growth.
But we need more research before we know how helpful anti diabetes drugs are in the treatment or prevention of lung cancer.
There is research into relieving symptoms of a blocked airway. In advanced cancer, people sometimes develop a blockage in their airway. This can make you feel breathless. It can also cause noisy breathing, called stridor, which can be upsetting. There are different ways of treating the blockage including radiotherapy to shrink the cancer, or laser surgery to cut away part of the blockage. You may have the more common external beam radiotherapy. Or you may have internal radiotherapy called brachytherapy. This involves putting a sealed radioactive source down a bronchoscope so that it is right next to the blockage. This can work very well.
Another way of relieving breathlessness is by using a stent. This is a hollow tube that is put into the airway during a bronchoscopy. Once the stent is in place, it expands slightly. This eases the blockage and makes it easier to breathe.
A small trial called RESTORE-AIR is looking into using stents to relieve breathlessness in non small cell lung cancer in the windpipe or a main bronchus. Doctors would usually want to give chemotherapy or radiotherapy to reduce the blockage before putting in a stent. But this trial is looking at how much putting a stent in first can help with breathlessness, and how much this can help you to cope with the rest of your treatment. The trial has now closed and we are waiting for the results.
If lung cancer spreads it often goes to the brain. In this case, doctors often give radiotherapy. But they are not sure if the side effects it causes, such as headaches, feeling tired, or feeling and being sick, cancel out the good effects.
The Quartz trial is looking at radiotherapy for people with non small cell lung cancer that has spread to the brain. Everyone on this trial has best supportive care from their health care team, plus treatment with steroids. One group will also have a course of radiotherapy to the brain, while the other will not. This trial has now closed and we are waiting for the results.
There is more information about these trials on our clinical trials database.
A study is looking at symptoms which could be caused by cancer coming back after treatment. After treatment for cancer of the breast, lung, prostate or bowel, you have follow up appointments with your specialist doctor. But after a few years, if you stay well, these appointments may stop. You are then asked to see your GP if you have any new symptoms, or are worried about anything.
Researchers looked back at the medical notes of people who went to their GP with symptoms some time after cancer treatment. They looked at people whose cancer had come back as well as people whose symptoms were caused by something else. The trial aims to find common symptoms of cancer recurrence to help doctors spot the signs that cancer may have come back. The trial has now closed. You can search for trials for lung cancer on our clinical trials database.
We have information about treatments for lung cancer in this section of the website.
You can find out more about the trials mentioned on this page and other lung cancer trials on our clinical trials database. If you want to see all the trials, tick the boxes for closed trials and trial results.
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