Heavy smokers with non-small cell lung cancer could benefit from certain immunotherapies


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Knowing the current and previous smoking habits of patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) could allow clinicians to make better informed treatment decisions, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study looked at data from 644 NSCLC patients, including 375 who were former smokers, 164 who were current smokers, and 105 who had never smoked. All patients were treated with a type of immunotherapy known as immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs).

After controlling for numerous factors, the study found that smoking status was significantly associated with an increased response rate to ICIs and that patients who had smoked more throughout life had better clinical outcomes when treated with ICIs than those who had never smoked.

In a July 15, 2021, article in Clinical Advisor, the researchers said that hospitals and health systems should strive to collect detailed smoking history from patients.

David Christiani, Elkan Blout Professor of Environmental Genetics at Harvard Chan School, was corresponding author. Other Harvard Chan School authors include graduate student Xinan Wang and biostatistics professor Xihong Lin.