New Drug Gives Smokers A Little Hope

Posted: April 24, 2014 | tobacco | cessation, medication, smokers, smoking, tobacco | 0 Comments

Hey! Good news if you’re a smoker who developed lung cancer as a result of smoking: now there’s an outside chance that you might be able to reduce the size of your tumors by small enough margin to prolong the spreading of the cancer for a few years.

Ok so it isn’t exactly shouting from the rooftops that we’ve finally found a cure for cancer but hey, it’s a step in the right direction.


The truth is, smoking is the lading cause of lung cancer and lung cancer is nasty business. It causes a certain protein (PD-L1) to render your own immune system defenseless against the tumor. That is to say that your immune system wont respond to the cancer cells at all, making the cancer totally incurable once it has metastasized. Scary.


The semi-good news is that a new drug, eloquently named MPDL3280A, has shown some promising signs in a recent study. The research focused on 53 patients who all have non-small cell lung cancer. Of the 53 patients, 23% reported some amount of tumor shrinkage after using the drug. Even more promising for smokers (or former smokers) is that this drug seems to work better if you’ve picked up the habit at some point in your life. Only 10% of lung cancer sufferers who have never smoked saw a reduction in the size of their tumors while 26% of current or former smokers saw their tumors reduce in size.


MPDL3280A is an antibody that targets a protein called PD-L1. Cancer essentially “tricks” the protein into not fighting with your body’s immune system, so this drug blocks PD-L1 from being tricked, thus giving your immune system a fighting chance against the spreading of cancer.


Of course, the best way to not acquire lung cancer is to never smoke. While 26% is an impressive number considering the fact that metastasized lung cancer is considered incurable, it’s still just over one-fourth of the patients in this study, not a majority by any means. Shrinking the tumor doesn’t mean it’s gone – it just means you bought yourself more time.


Your best course of action is to never pick up a cigarette in the first place.

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