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    Top 3 Newer Drugs That Are Helping Lung Cancer Patients

    Talking to patients about lung cancer treatment isn't easy. When diagnosed early, the five-year survival rate for lung cancer patients is just 55 percent, which by itself is a stomach-churning statistic. Unfortunately, the vast majority of patients aren't diagnosed until lung cancer has spread, which drops the five-year survival rate to a frightening 4 percent. Despite numerous advances in treatment, lung cancer is largely undaunted. That said, three newer drugs are helping patients live longer and more comfortable lives -- they are Keytruda, Opdivo and Tagrisso. Read on to learn more about these important medications that are delivering both hope and results.

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    How has Opdivo helped patients?

    Recently released studies showed that Opdivo can help people who've been diagnosed with advanced-stage lung cancer to live at least two years longer. This medication is quickly becoming a second-line treatment behind chemotherapy.

    What is next for these three therapies?

    Medical studies involving Keytruda, Opdivo and Tagrisso is ongoing. Researchers are currently experimenting with new ways to incorporate these drugs with other courses of lung cancer treatment. These medications are also being studied as candidates for combination treatments.

    How do Keytruda and Opdivo work?

    Both of these drugs work by blocking the PD-1 protein that is produced within tumors. With this protein blocked, the body's immune system can more effectively detect and attack cancer cells.

    How does Tagrisso work?

    Tagrisso works by inhibiting the EGFR proteins that cancerous cells use to grow. Other EGFR drugs have already been approved, but they tend to lose their effectiveness over time. Tagrisso works against the T790M mutation, which is a newer EGFR mutation.

    What kind of a difference has Keytruda made?

    In a clinical trial of more than 300 patients, people who took Keytruda as opposed to platinum-based chemotherapy experienced median progression-free periods of 10.3 months as opposed to six months. In a larger trial of more than 1,000 patients, the drug also produced longer median survival periods than docetaxel, another common cancer drug.

    What are some of Tagrisso's results?

    Tagrisso was tested in a pair of clinical trials of 411 patients. During the first trial, tumors disappeared or shrank in 57 percent of patients. That number was 61 percent in the second test.

    Are any of these medications approved as first-line treatments?

    Tagrisso and Keytruda are both first-line treatments for different forms of lung cancer. This is notable because the standard first-line treatment for lung cancer is often chemotherapy.

    Were these lung cancer treatments approved via similar methods?

    All three of these cancer-fighting medications have at some point received accelerated approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.