Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment

Non-Small-Cell Lung-Cancer-treatment-standard

Different types of treatments are available for patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials.

Non-small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment / Types of Treatment

Different types of treatments are available for patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.

Ten types of standard treatment are used

Non-small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment / Surgery

Four types of surgery are used to treat lung cancer

Four types of surgery are used to treat lung cancer:

  • Wedge resection: Surgery to remove a tumor and some of the normal tissue around it. When a slightly larger amount of tissue is taken, it is called a segmental resection.
  • Lobectomy: Surgery to remove a whole lobe(section) of the lung
  • Pneumonectomy: Surgery to remove one whole lung.
  • Sleeve resection: Surgery to remove part of the bronchus.

After the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy.




Non-small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment- Lobectomy
By Cancer Research UK 

Standard Treatments

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy:

  • External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer.
  • Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.

Stereotactic body radiation therapy is a type of external radiation therapy. Special equipment is used to place the patient in the same position for each radiation treatment. Once a day for several days, a radiation machine aims a larger than usual dose of radiation directly at the tumor. By having the patient in the same position for each treatment, there is less damage to nearby healthy tissue. This procedure is also called stereotactic external-beam radiation therapy and stereotaxic radiation therapy.

Stereotactic radiosurgery is a type of external radiation therapy used to treat lung cancer that has spread to the brain. A rigid head frame is attached to the skull to keep the head still during the radiation treatment. A machine aims a single large dose of radiation directly at the tumor in the brain. This procedure does not involve surgery. It is also called stereotaxic radiosurgery, radiosurgery, and radiation surgery.

For tumors in the airways, radiation is given directly to the tumor through an endoscope.

The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It also depends on where the cancer is found. External and internal radiation therapy are used to treat non-small cell lung cancer.

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy).

The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to attack specific cancer cells. Targeted therapies usually cause less harm to normal cells than chemotherapy or radiation therapy do. Monoclonal antibodies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors are the two main types of targeted therapy being used to treat advancedmetastatic, or recurrent non-small cell lung cancer.

Monoclonal antibody therapy is a cancer treatment that uses antibodies made in the laboratory from a single type of immune system cell. These antibodies can identify substances on cancer cells or normal substances in the blood or tissues that may help cancer cells grow. The antibodies attach to the substances and kill the cancer cells, block their growth, or keep them from spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion. They may be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells.

There are different types of monoclonal antibody therapy:

  • Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor therapy: Cancer cells make a substance called VEGF, which causes new blood vessels to form (angiogenesis) and helps the cancer grow. VEGF inhibitors block VEGF and stop new blood vessels from forming. This may kill cancer cells because they need new blood vessels to grow. Bevacizumab and ramucirumab are VEGF inhibitors and angiogenesis inhibitors.
  • Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitor therapy: EGFRs are proteins found on the surface of certain cells, including cancer cells. Epidermal growth factor attaches to the EGFR on the surface of the cell and causes the cells to grow and divide. EGFR inhibitors block the receptor and stop the epidermal growth factor from attaching to the cancer cell. This stops the cancer cell from growing and dividing. Cetuximab and necitumumab are EGFR inhibitors.

Tyrosine kinase inhibitors are small-molecule drugs that go through the cell membrane and work inside cancer cells to block signals that cancer cells need to grow and divide. Some tyrosine kinase inhibitors also have angiogenesis inhibitor effects.

There are different types of tyrosine kinase inhibitors:

  • Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors: EGFRs are proteins found on the surface and inside certain cells, including cancer cells. Epidermal growth factor attaches to the EGFR inside the cell and sends signals to the tyrosine kinase area of the cell, which tells the cell to grow and divide. EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors stop these signals and stop the cancer cell from growing and dividing. Erlotinib, gefitinib, afatinib, and osimertinib are types of EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Some of these drugs work better when there is also a mutation (change) in the EGFR gene.
  • Kinase inhibitors that affect cells with certain gene changes: Certain changes in the ALKROS1BRAF, and MEK genes, and NTRK gene fusions, cause too much protein to be made. Blocking these proteins may stop the cancer from growing and spreading. Crizotinib is used to stop proteins from being made by the ALK and ROS1 genes. Ceritinib, alectinib, brigatinib, and lorlatinib are used to stop proteins from being made by the ALK gene. Dabrafenib is used to stop proteins being made by the BRAF gene. Trametinib is used to stop proteins being made by the MEK gene. Larotrectinib is used to stop proteins being made by a NTRK gene fusion.

The information contained on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, you should always consult a qualified healthcare professional.  Cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabis plant constituents should not be used as a substitute for conventional medical care. CBD and other cannabis plant constituents may interfere with medical treatment.

 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment “ (PDQ®)–Patient Version was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.”

PDQ® Adult Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <10/16/2019>. Available at: Accessed <12/13/2019>. [PMID: 26389355].