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Almost 25 Percent Of Cancer Patients Are Ineligible For Immunotherapy, Researchers Say

First Posted: Jun 08, 2016 05:00 AM EDT
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Immunotherapy is a great advance in cancer treatment but up to a quarter of lung cancer patients are not eligible for this therapy.
(Photo : China Photos / Getty Images)

Cancer researchers at the UT Southwestern have calculated that about 14 to 25 percent of lung cancer patients also have autoimmune disease. This criteria makes then unqualified for the increasingly popular immunotherapy treatments.

Immunotherapy uses the body's natural defenses to fight cancer by stimulating the immune system to improve its ability to attack cancer cells or by giving the patient laboratory-made immune system proteins.

According to findings published in JAMA Oncology, individuals the researchers reviewed who also had immune diseases were mostly women and older. These patients' immune systems attack the body, so they have been excluded from clinical trials to test immunotherapies because of fear that the treatment may worsen their condition or cause new conditions to appear since the treatment uses the body's own immune system against cancer.

A report in Tech Times stated that researchers looked at government insurance data which covered the period between 1991 and 2011 and national data from the years 1992 to 2009 to come up with an estimated number of lung cancer patients in the United States with autoimmune conditions.

The results revealed that of the 210,509 lung cancer patients, 28,453, or about 14 percent, had been hospitalized for an autoimmune disease. Nearly 25 percent of the patients also had at least one insurance claim for autoimmune conditions.

Science Daily said first author Dr. Saad Khan, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology explained that their team wants to determine if the practice had a significant effect on the patients. "The new immunotherapy treatments also convey the risk of unpredictable, possibly severe, and potentially irreversible autoimmune toxicities affecting a variety of organs. With combination immunotherapy regimens, rates of these adverse events may exceed 50 percent," he said.

The researchers said that the increased chances of autoimmune diseases among lung cancer patients can be attributed to advanced age at diagnosis and smoking history, which has been known to increase the risk of developing certain autoimmune diseases.

Lifestyle practices are associated with some autoimmune disorders. Alcoholism, stress and sedentary lifestyle are also known to drive these medical conditions.

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