Arizona Oncology - The US Oncology Network

Treatment & Services

Lung Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy for Lung Cancer Treatment

Immunotherapy uses your body’s natural defenses to recognize and fight the cancer. When used to treat lung cancer, the immune system will recognize lung cancer cells and mount a defense against them. The goal of treating cancer with immunotherapy is to control it for as long as possible with the highest quality of life. There is great excitement about the immunotherapy lung cancer treatment to improve both the length and quality of survival.

Several approaches to immunotherapy are either available or are currently in the research phase so that they can become more universally available in the future.

There are three major approaches to immunotherapy when treating lung cancer:

  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors - Cancer cells can trick the body into turning its own immune system defenses off. Immune checkpoint inhibitors are molecules that attach to immune cells that make it possible for the body to attack the cancer cells and leave normal cells alone.
  • Therapeutic Cancer Vaccines - This type of vaccine is intended for cancers that have already developed and will delay or stop cancer cell growth, cause tumors to shrink, prevent cancers from recurring or kill cancer cells that haven’t been eliminated by other forms of cancer treatment. The vaccine does this by making the immune system respond to the cancer cells, which can be difficult. Cancer cells protect themselves by producing chemical messages that suppress the immune system’s ability to recognize which cells are cancerous. The cancer vaccine helps the immune system to become powerful enough to overcome the barriers that the cancer cells use to protect themselves.
  • Adoptive T Cell Therapy (ACT) - T cells, a type of white blood cell that scans for abnormalities or infections, are pulled out of the cancer patient. The T cells are then genetically modified and infused back into the patient to find and destroy cancer cells.

Another way researchers are using T cells is to find existing ones in the body that have already invaded a patient’s cancer cells. Once identified they can multiply the population of those cells in a laboratory and infuse them back into the patient to continue fighting the cancer cells.  

All of these promising approaches to cancer treatment use different ways of stimulating the immune system to attack lung cancer cells. Today, virtually all lung cancer patients treated with immunotherapy have advanced cancers and are typically participants in a cancer research trial.

How to Access Immunotherapy Lung Cancer Treatment

The best way to access these new lung cancer immunotherapies is through clinical trials. Through the support of US Oncology Research, often these trials are available through Arizona Oncology before becoming available in other cancer centers. Arizona Oncology is dedicated to learning about and shaping the newest findings in cancer treatment in our Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff area locations.


If you are interested in learning more please contact our office today.