How Effective Is Docetaxel for Lung Cancer?

Mary McMahon

Docetaxel for lung cancer is used in an effort to slow the progression of a cancer and extend life expectancy for a patient. The effectiveness of this medication can vary depending on when it is given and what kind of treatments are provided alongside it. Cost-benefit analysis of the drug suggests that it is a cost-effective treatment to improve quality of life for cancer patients, although it does not provide a curative effect.

Smoking is closely associated with lung cancer.
Smoking is closely associated with lung cancer.

This medication is primarily used as a second line treatment. A doctor may recommend docetaxel for lung cancer if a previous round of chemotherapy did not work. Patients can live longer after the recurrence of lung cancer if they take docetaxel. The medication can also be used in combination with drugs like cisplatin as a first line therapy. If a tumor in the lungs is inoperable, the drug may act to keep the patient comfortable longer, and can extend the patient's life.

A human respiratory system.
A human respiratory system.

Oncologists may also use the medication to prepare a patient for surgery and radiation. Patients can take docetaxel for lung cancer to shrink a tumor before these treatments, which can make them more successful. The patients receive the drug in an infusion, ideally under supervision from a nurse or doctor who can monitor for side effects. This medication, like many chemotherapy drugs, can cause patients to feel unwell, and they are usually advised to take precautions to reduce the risk of infection while on the docetaxel.

The type of lung cancer can play a role in the effectiveness of this medication. Some cancers resist chemotherapy and may recur or grow aggressively despite medication. Others are more responsive, and a patient may go into remission with docetaxel for lung cancer in combination with treatments like surgery. Part of the diagnostic process includes an evaluation by a pathologist to determine what kind of lung cancer is present and to collect information about the tumor so a doctor can make the best treatment recommendations.

Patients with a lung cancer diagnosis may find it helpful to talk to a practitioner about all available options and to solicit a second opinion. New drugs for lung cancer regularly enter the market, and doctors may use other chemotherapy medications in an off label application to treat lung cancer if those drugs could provide benefits. When a doctor recommends docetaxel for lung cancer, the patient can discuss how the medication would be used, what kinds of alternatives are available, and what to look forward to in terms of life expectancy and comfort.

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