Lung Cancer Drug Therapies

Our medical oncologists use the newest lung cancer therapies, providing options for more people.

Traditionally, lung cancer drugs destroyed or slowed cancer cells, but those medications came with tradeoffs. Now, help also comes from newer lung cancer therapies aimed at growth signals and the immune system. At times, these medications extend life, offering hope for lung cancer that has spread or returned.

Our team searches for promising drugs and treatment combinations, running one of the nation’s most active clinical trials programs for thoracic cancers. Our medical oncologists have the tools and experience to fully evaluate lung cancers, finding the most appropriate drugs and sequence for you. We watch your body’s response and adjust as needed.

Learn more about our lung cancer clinical trials.

Next-generation sequencing for lung cancer

Finding genetic changes in tumors can reveal potential treatment targets for some lung cancers. We use next-generation sequencing to look at numerous genes at once. We test in-house, ensuring timeliness and accuracy. We take one of the most thorough approaches in the state.

In the future, sequencing could apply to all types of lung cancer. It could also indicate who might benefit from cancer therapy aimed at the immune system. For now, it mainly identifies potential targeted therapy for:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer, the most frequently diagnosed lung cancer
  • Specifically, adenocarcinoma, the most common subtype of non-small cell lung cancer

Chemotherapy for lung cancer

The original class of lung cancer drugs, chemotherapy treats cancerous cells throughout the body. It can destroy cancer cells or stop them from multiplying. However, these drugs can harm healthy cells that also divide rapidly.

Despite that tradeoff, chemotherapy remains a critical part of many lung cancer treatment plans, especially for later stages. It’s often the primary treatment for small cell lung cancer. For non-small cell lung cancer, doctors frequently combine it with newer drugs.

We closely monitor your chemotherapy treatment and help manage any side effects. Learn more about chemotherapy side effects and get answers to frequently asked questions about lung cancer.

Targeted therapy for lung cancer

Newer lung cancer therapies largely spare healthy cells. Instead, they specifically target messages between cells that tell cancer to grow.

As a first step, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved several targeted therapies for certain non-small cell lung cancers. The first targeted therapies for lung cancer treat disease that has metastasized (spread), stopped responding to other treatments or returned. Researchers hope to find effective targeted therapy for other lung cancers.

One approved targeted therapy stops blood vessel growth that tumors need to grow. Other therapies treat tumors that have specific genetic changes. These changes affect proteins that drive cancer growth. They aren’t inherited and are often found in nonsmokers.

Is targeted therapy right for you?

If you have a tumor that might respond to targeted therapy, we take a tissue sample, or biopsy. We then run next-generation sequencing to identify changes and match them to possible drugs. Our medical oncologists follow the latest findings and run many clinical trials. They can find the right targeted therapy for you, whether it’s:

  • Approved for non-small cell lung cancer
  • Approved for another cancer but still available for off-label use
  • Under investigation

Immunotherapy for lung cancer

The latest approved lung cancer drugs help the immune system with its fight, offering new possibilities for late-stage disease. Two drugs treat small cell lung cancer, while a handful treat non-small cell lung cancer beginning in stage III. Doctors often pair them with chemotherapy.

Despite their appeal, immunotherapies aren’t a good fit for all lung cancers. The drugs don’t work for everyone, and they trigger undesired immune reactions in some. Still, they can control tumors and extend life, and we’re hopeful they will grow even more effective.

Our program helped secure approval for the first two immunotherapies. Now, our researchers are investigating additional approaches. Our clinical trials look to:

  • Develop new drugs
  • Combine therapies in new ways
  • Use immunotherapy earlier in treatment
Diagnosed with lung cancer?

When facing a life-changing cancer diagnosis, you may want to take a crucial, but often overlooked step: Get a second opinion.

Download PDF

Connect with our Cancer Team 24/7

Call us at (888) 777-4167

Schedule Appointment Online

** Check with your insurance carrier for coverage limitations.

If you can't find a date/time that works for you please call the provider’s office. Not all appointment types at all locations are available online.

Henry Ford Health System is committed to ensuring our Deaf or hard-of-hearing patients and visitors have equal access to all services. We provide the appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified sign language interpreters, TTYs and other assistive listening devices, at no cost. To request assistance, call 313-916-1896 or email CommunicationAccess@hfhs.org.

Schedule Appointment for