Back to top

Approaches to treatment for NSCLC

For non-small cell lung cancer today, there are several treatment approaches that are considered. These include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and biomarker-driven therapy. Doctors often use these approaches in various combinations, depending on what is appropriate for the person and their cancer.1

  • Surgery
    Surgery is more often an option at the early stages when the cancer is localized and has not spread outside the lung. It is often part of a plan that includes other types of treatments.2
  • Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
    RFA uses high-energy radio waves to heat the tumor. This treatment might be an option for people with small lung tumors that are near the outer edge of the lungs, especially if they can’t tolerate surgery.3
  • Radiation Therapy
    Radiation therapy is a treatment option that kills cancer cells with X-rays or other radioactive particles. External beam radiation is delivered from outside the body and directed at the cancer. Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy) uses a radioactive pellet that is placed inside the lung, directly into the cancer or next to it.4
  • Chemotherapy
    The aim of chemotherapy is to use anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells. These drugs may be injected or taken orally. They are usually given for 4 or more cycles, with each cycle lasting 3 to 4 weeks. Because these drugs get into the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body, this type of treatment is useful for cancers that have spread.5
  • Biomarker-Driven Therapy
    Thanks to discoveries in genetics over the past decade, biomarker-driven therapy is giving doctors another important treatment option. For people whose tumors test positive for certain biomarkers, it may be possible to base their treatment plan on the particular genetic makeup of the tumor.6,7
  • Immunotherapy
    Immunotherapy is the use of medicines to stimulate a person’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. Immunotherapy can be used to treat some forms of NSCLC.8
  1. American Cancer Society. Non-small cell lung cancer treatment.
    Accessed May 23, 2016
  2. American Cancer Society. Surgery for non-small cell lung cancer.
    Accessed May 23, 2016
  3. American Cancer Society. Radiofrequency ablation for non-small cell lung cancer. Accessed May 23, 2016
  4. American Cancer Society. Radiation therapy for non-small cell lung cancer.
    Accessed May 23, 2016
  5. American Cancer Society. Chemotherapy for non-small cell lung cancer.
    Accessed May 23, 2016
  6. Gandara DR, Li T, Lara PR Jr, et al. Algorithm for codevelopment of new drug-predictive biomarker combinations: accounting for inter- and intrapatient tumor heterogeneity. Clin Lung Cancer. 2012;13(5):321-325.
  7. Goetsch CM. Genetic tumor profiling and genetically targeted cancer therapy. Semin Oncol Nurs. 2011;27(1):34-44.
  8. American Cancer Society. Immunotherapy for non-small cell lung cancer. Accessed May 23, 2016