Role of immunotherapy in lung cancer: Preliminary results of new vaccines and immune checkpoint inhibitors

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The two dominant approaches to manipulating cancer immunotherapeutics are active, where the immune system is directly stimulated, and passive, where antitumor antibodies stimulate an indirect immune response. At this point, the active approach is receiving more attention in the arena of lung cancer, with ongoing vaccine clinical trials and studies investigating the role of immune checkpoint inhibitors, in particular those that block the programmed death 1(PD-1) receptor and its ligands. Early results from trials of PD-1/PD-L1 ligand inhibitors in nonsmall cell lung cancer are promising, with patients experiencing rapid and durable responses in the first-, second- and third-line setting as well as in combination with chemotherapy and other immune checkpoint inhibitors. Although the number of patients in these trials is small and the results are preliminary, lung cancer physicians are encouraged that they may soon have agents that confer benefits in excess of those seen with chemotherapy to offer their patients. Further results of ongoing trials are highly anticipated.

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