Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada. It kills over 20,000 Canadians every year — more people than colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Lung cancer treatments are as individual as the patients. Because it isn’t a one-size-fits-all disease, it’s important to know that there are a variety of treatment options available.

Dr. Paul Wheatley-Price, the President of Lung Cancer Canada, says three common treatment options for patients are chemotherapy, surgery, and the growing field of immuno-oncology therapy. But they work in different ways.

Chemotherapy works more generally, using injected or oral treatments taken in several multi-week rounds to combat lung cancer. Surgery, on the other hand, is targeted to a specific area and can be effective if the cancer is caught early enough.

“Immuno-oncology therapies really have the promise to benefit a lot of people,” says Dr. Wheatley-Price. The intravenous treatments don’t directly fight the cancer, but instead stimulate the patient’s immune system to fight the cancer-causing cells like it normally would in a healthy person. By using the body’s immune system to find and destroy tumour cells, the disease can be targeted more effectively than with conventional cancer treatments.

Continued research and development of immuno-oncology treatments offers renewed hope and the potential of a longer life for patients with advanced cancers, such as locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer.

Patients and their family members should consult their doctors to learn if immuno-oncology treatments are right for them.