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How Effective Is Cisplatin for Lung Cancer?

By Emma Miller
Updated May 17, 2024
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Treatment for lung cancer may involve a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, depending on the form and extent of the disease. A type of chemotherapy, cisplatin is typically used for advanced primary, non-small cell lung carcinomas. The drug may offer better symptom control and slightly higher survival rates than other treatments — or the absence of treatment — but it can cause serious side-effects, including severe nausea, peripheral neuropathy, and hearing loss.

A common type of malignancy, lung cancer is frequently associated with smoking, but can affect non-smokers too. Risk factors in non-smokers include exposure to second-hand smoke, asbestos, or radon. There are two types of primary malignancy of the lung, small cell and non-small cell carcinomas, with the latter being the most common.

A number of treatment options exist for both types of primary lung cancer. Cisplatin is a medication typically given, alongside other chemotherapy agents, for advanced non-small cell lung carcinomas that have metastasized to other organs, and that cannot be successfully removed surgically. Medical studies indicate treatment with cisplatin may improve symptom control and quality of life for people with advanced non-small cell lung carcinomas, compared to other available chemotherapeutic interventions or to no treatment. Slightly higher rates of survival at one year post-treatment have also been observed in some patients treated with cisplatin for lung cancer.

Clinical trial data shows that patients who receive combination chemotherapy that includes cisplatin for lung cancer and surgery have significantly increased survival rates five years after the conclusion of treatment. The drug is generally given via intravenous infusions every two to three weeks, though it may be slightly more effective at improving survival rates when given as an adjunct therapy, once a week for a total of five months. Advanced non-small cell lung cancer treatment is usually palliative, aimed at controlling symptoms and improving sufferers’ quality of life. Alternative chemotherapeutic interventions have marginally lower survival rates than cisplatin for lung cancer at one year, but lack the higher potential for toxic side effects that the drug is associated with. These may negatively impact quality of life.

Research into the effectiveness of cisplatin for lung cancer shows that the drug is promising as part of a first-line combination treatment for advanced non-small cell lung malignancies, and yields better therapeutic results than the absence of treatment. Like all chemotherapy medications, cisplatin for lung cancer suppresses part of the immune system and can make people more susceptible to opportunistic infections and certain other types of cancer, such as lymphoma. Use of cisplatin may result in a number of potentially serious side effects, which can include electrolyte imbalances and kidney damage.

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