While lung cancer continues to be a leading cause of death, many patients are living longer lives after diagnosis, increasingly through the power of their own immune systems. When David Carbone, MD, PhD, began treating lung cancer patients in the early stages of his career, there was little knowledge about the possibilities of increasing patients&rsquo; survival chances. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been treating only lung cancer since the 1980s,&rdquo; Carbone says. &ldquo;When I was a resident, it wasn&rsquo;t clear if anything helped survival.&rdquo; Even years later, studies showed that existing treatments did little to improve survival outcomes. &ldquo;We published a study in [approximately] 2002 that showed that chemotherapy improved survival by only a median of a couple of months,&rdquo; Carbone says. &ldquo;The average survival for lung cancer after diagnosis was literally four to six months.&rdquo; Since that study was conducted, however, the efforts of researchers like Carbone and his Ohio State colleagues are paying off with new therapies with benefits that go beyond quality-of-life improvements to affect the life expectancies of patients. &ldquo;Treatment has changed dramatically,&rdquo; Carbone says. &ldquo;That's through many factors, but mostly through the discovery of the molecular mechanisms underlying lung cancer and the design of new treatments to target them.&rdquo; Learn how advances in lung cancer screening is helping doctors improve patients&rsquo; outcomes through early detection. Among the new treatment avenues pursued by lung cancer specialists at the OSUCCC &ndash; James and other leading institutions are precision therapies that target specific mutations. &ldquo;Targeted therapies are designed to turn off processes that are abnormally turned on in cancer cells, which is why they're so highly effective,&rdquo; Carbone says. &ldquo;When you can match these treatments to genetic abnormalities in patients, virtually everyone responds &mdash; while with chemotherapy, only around 25 percent of patients do so &mdash; and that response is durable. Carbone shares more details about recent breakthroughs &mdash; and possible future innovation &mdash; in lung cancer treatment on our Cancer-Free World Podcast. Listen via the video player above, or on SoundCloud. &nbsp;Included in the group of new targeted treatments are immunotherapy drugs that &ldquo;turn on&rdquo; the body&rsquo;s natural defenses to detect and attack previously-hidden lung cancer cells. &ldquo;The immune system is really good at clearing things that aren't supposed to be there,&rdquo; Carbone says. &ldquo;The problem is that cancer cells are very similar to normal cells in many ways, and they figure out how to avoid being recognized by the body's immune system. &ldquo;Fortunately, research has shown that in lung cancer, a pathway called the PD one pathway is responsible for a large part of this forcefield effect, and modern immunotherapy treatments can turn off this forcefield and suddenly allow the immune system to see the cancer.&rdquo; Another new treatment that&rsquo;s showing promise combines immunotherapy with genetic modification. &ldquo;We can genetically modify immune cells and induce them to target tumors, and we can use patients&rsquo; immune cells to target particular antigens in tumors,&rdquo; Carbone says. &ldquo;We can also grow immune cells in the laboratory and infuse them back into patients &mdash; all of these things are being used now in lung cancer and showing really promising results.&rdquo; It&rsquo;s these advances, coupled with ongoing and planned research, that give Carbone hope that doctors will build on the early success of immunotherapy to help lung cancer patients live longer after their diagnoses, and in some cases, be cured of their diseases. &ldquo;Historically, even with targeted therapies, I would tell patients that we could treat their cancers, but we couldn&rsquo;t cure them once they were metastatic,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;With immunotherapies, though, I don't say that anymore because we have some patients that are alive 5,6,7, 8 years later, having been off treatment with no evidence of cancer. This is revolutionary.&rdquo; Learn all about lung cancer, including symptoms, risks, and research and treatment options at Ohio State.