Researchers fear immunotherapy treatment could pose a risk to those already suffering from immune-weakening diseases which include around 25 percent of lung cancer sufferers.
Immunotherapy is becoming more and more widely used in treating patients with cancer but a team of researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center say that those suffering from lung cancer and also have autoimmune diseases will not be able to be part of the latest immunotherapy treatments.
Someone with an autoimmune disease has an abnormal immune response to normal substances and tissues present in the body. Immunotherapy is the process of stimulating a patient’s immune system to improve its ability to attack the cancer cells or treating the patients with synthetic proteins found in the immune system, according to UPI.
The fear is that people with these autoimmune diseases could end up worsening their conditions due to the body’s potential reaction to the treatment.
Lung cancer patients who also carry the immune-weakening diseases will not be eligible for the ground-breaking treatment according to the authors of the study. A large number of lung cancer patients also have autoimmune diseases – around 14 percent had been in hospital as a result and nearly 25 percent have claimed on insurance.
It’s because of this that nearly 20 to 50 million patients in the U.S. will be exempt from having access to immunotherapy treatments.
“Our team wanted to determine if this practice had a significant impact,” said lead author of the study, Saad Khan. “The new immunotherapy treatments also convey the risk of unpredictable, possibly severe, and potentially irreversible autoimmune toxicities affecting a variety of organs. With combination immunotherapy regimens, rates of these adverse events may exceed 50 percent.”
There are over 80 different autoimmune diseases with the most prolific being rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and polymyalgia rheumatica in lung cancer patients.
The authors of the study state that previous research into administering immunotherapy to those with autoimmune diseases is possible, the unknown long-term effects make it risky and could further worsen both the cancer and the autoimmune disease itself.
The study was published in the journal JAMA Oncology.