Immunotherapy Improves Lung Cancer Survival and Quality of Life, Singaporean Expert Attests
Before immunotherapy came around, the median survival of stage 4 lung cancer patients was just a little over a year. And in that remaining time, the patients endured repeated chemotherapy, so their quality of life was very poor,
A Singaporean Case Study on Improvement of Lung Cancer Survival with Immunotherapy
It may surprise many people to know that even in Singapore, where smoking restrictions are tighter than anywhere else in the world, lung cancer remains to be the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths among men and one of the top five among women. This is according to Singapore’s Cancer Registry 2015 Annual Registry Report.
Senior Consultant Medical Oncologist at the Icon SOC Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre in Singapore
Prof. Morteza Aghmesheh
Oncologist and Cancer Researcher from the Wollongong Hospital in Australia
Immunotherapy Brings New Hope for Advanced Head and Neck Cancer Patients
For this 78-year-old patient, it seemed like the end of the line. His battle with cancer started two years ago when he was first diagnosed with early stage tonsil cancer. Within six to eight months, the disease had already spread to his lungs.
The patient received chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and for a time, the cancer seemed to have responded to the treatments. But less than half a year after the last cycle, the cancer came back.
BIOMARKER SCREENING AND GOVERNMENT SUPPORT IN COMBATING LUNG CANCER
The diagnostic work of a seldom-seen doctor – a pathologist – is crucial in battling cancer.
“We select the right patient for the right treatment to improve the chance of treatment success,” explained Professor Tae Jung Kim, a medical doctor and an associate professor of Pathology at The Catholic University of Korea, at a recent cancer-treatment symposium in Manila.
Medical Doctor Associate Professor of Pathology at The Catholic University of Korea
Dr. Daryl Tan
Director of Research at the Raffles Hospital in Singapore
Patients with Recurring Hodgkin Lymphoma Find New Hope in Immunotherapy Cancer Treatment
At a cancer-treatment forum held recently at the Crowne Plaza in Quezon City, hematologist Dr. Daryl Tan, the Director of Research at the Raffles Hospital in Singapore, narrated a bleak tale: a 25-year-old woman, in the prime of her life, was losing her battle against a blood cancer called Hodgkin lymphoma.
“It’s a common cancer in her age group,” said Dr. Tan, “but most patients—up to 80%—usually respond very well to chemotherapy. Unfortunately for this patient, she was one of the 20% who do not respond well. After she completed chemotherapy, she relapsed. Her cancer came back.”
I have treated patients with head and neck cancers for many years, so I have seen, up close, the difficult experience of living with head and neck cancer. Cancer is a trying situation for all patients and their loved ones, but head and neck patients face cancer in a unique and difficult way, with their disease and tumors often visible to the public.
I have been involved in research for years as part of scientists’ decades-long endeavor to bring forward meaningful advances for patients diagnosed with this potentially aggressive disease. Until recently, such advances were hard to come by and my patients and I struggled with the limited treatment options available.
Vice President, Oncology Clinical Development, MSD Research Laboratories
GUIDING YOUR PATIENTS THROUGH IMMUNOTHERAPY TREATMENT
Acknowledge their emotions. Some cancer patients experience different stages of grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance..
Denial happens when the patient goes through shock or becomes too overwhelmed with the news of his/her diagnosis. This is considered a healthy response. Be on guard if the patient refuses to address critical issues about the condition.
Anger is another outgrowth of grief. It can crop up anytime such as after a diagnosis or even during recovery after successful treatment. Changes in the patient’s lifestyle and feelings of helplessness can trigger this feeling.
Bargaining arises when patients promise a change in lifestyle like eating a healthier diet, devoting more time for family or strengthening specific religious beliefs in exchange for recovery.
Depression or sadness is somehow expected but caregivers must be on guard if a patient shows: failure to thrive despite a positive prognosis, symptoms that need medical attention, or suicidal thoughts/lack of motivation to live. If this is the case, seek necessary expert help.
Acceptance begins when patients finally come to terms that cancer is a reality and it is now part of their lives.
There is no specific timeline for these stages. Some patients may experience the entire phase, some may skip certain emotions, while others revert back to the initial stages even after acceptance.
Sometimes, a patient just needs an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on. Don’t patronize them or worse, brush aside their fears and loneliness.
Understand their treatment options. You may give your advice and opinion on certain matters but at the end of the day, only the patient has the ultimate decision when it comes to treatment options.
Disclaimer: The medical information described in this document is based on the ESMO Clinical Practice Guideline for management of toxicities from immunotherapy, which is designed to help clinicians with the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of these events.
The Patient Guide on Immunotherapy-related side effects and their management is published in 2017.
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