Lung Cancer Chemotherapy

  • Grace Dy, MD, discusses chemotherapy options with an RPCI patient.

For many lung cancer patients, chemotherapy is an important part of treatment. Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy lung cancer cells and tumors elsewhere in the body.

Lung cancer chemotherapy may be administered in the following ways:

  • Before surgery to destroy cancer cells.
  • After surgery or radiation to target cancer cells that were not removed during lung cancer surgery, and to help prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of your body.
  • As a primary treatment for locally advanced or metastatic lung cancer in which chemotherapy drugs are circulated through the bloodstream to attack cancer cells through the body.
  • Directly to the lung tumor during surgery (lung suffusion).
  • As a targeted therapy to block the growth and spread of cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream via the vein (injection) or by mouth (pill). Some people with non-small cell lung cancer that has spread receive targeted therapy.
  • Through clinical research studies. Learn more about Roswell Park's innovative phase I clinical research studies program.

Tumor Molecular Profiling

Before you receive your chemotherapy, our lung cancer team will conduct a procedure called Tumor Molecular Profiling (TMP), in which a small sample of your tumor is removed to help us determine and guide your treatment. Studying the cancer cells' molecular distinctions, specific antibodies, proteins or receptors, is essential to targeting therapy that attacks those unique characteristics and in turn, the cancer itself. At Roswell Park, TMP is performed on-site in our laboratories, providing the advantage of reliable and faster results. By testing for abnormal proteins that direct the tumor to grow, we can then offer the patient a specific targeted drug that blocks that protein and stops the tumor from growing. It's truly personalized medicine.

As a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center — the only one in New York State located outside New York City — RPCI offers patients the very latest therapeutic approaches, long before new lung cancer drugs become routine use elsewhere.

Lung Suffusion

Thoracic Department Chair Todd Demmy, MD, pioneered a new surgical technique for treating lung cancer that allows direct delivery of chemotherapy to the tumor. The technique benefits patients who cannot undergo traditional curative surgery because the tumor has progressed to a more advanced stage. 

The technique uses the chemotherapy drug cisplatin, but rather than circulating the drug throughout the entire body, it is used to temporarily replace blood only in the main artery of the lung, to help protect healthy, non-cancerous tissue. When the 30-minute infusion is complete, the cisplatin is flushed out and normal blood flow resumes.

If this research continues to show promise, it may be expanded to cover patients with other tumor types, different classes of drugs, and patients with earlier stages of cancer.