Rush Limbaugh, 69, the far-right conservative talk-radio host announced Monday on “The Rush Limbaugh Show” that he has been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.
“The upshot is that I have been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, diagnosis confirmed by two medical institutions back on January 20th,” he said.Read More
The host of 31 years says he is experiencing no symptoms, but still felt something was off on his birthday weekend earlier in January.
“It is what it is,” he continued. “My intention is to come here every day I can.”
Limbaugh also said he has “a great bunch of doctors, a great team assembled, we’re at full speed ahead on this.”
The controversial host often elicits strong opinions, but some are putting away politics to wish him well.
As someone who is also battling cancer, I wish Rush Limbaugh all the best as he fights this awful disease, and I hope people put aside their political views , wish him well, and don’t act like complete bastards, it’s a terrible disease, and the treatment is truly awful.
— Elizabeth West (@Limeylizzie) February 3, 2020
Advanced-stage lung cancer can mean many things and is a challenging diagnosis. We do not know if Limbaugh has stage 3 or stage 4 cancer, but it’s likely that it’s in his lymph nodes.
While it’s not known if this is related to his lung cancer, Limbaugh is a longtime cigar smoker.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, “While cigarettes — given their high rate of use, addictive nature, and toxic mix of chemicals — are the most dangerous tobacco product, any tobacco product you inhale could cause lung damage.” Cigar smoking can increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lead to cancers of the lung, oral cavity, and larynx, among other cancers, it says.
There’s an increase in the number of options available for patients with later stage lung cancer. These include, most notably, immunotherapy in the form of so called checkpoint inhibitors that actually turn off a part of the immune system that is stopping the body from fighting the cancer.
Noble Prize winner Dr. Jim Allison explains immunotherapy combinations
In a previous conversation with SurvivorNet, Dr. Jim Allison, who won the Nobel Prize in 2019 for his part in developing checkpoint inhibitors, said, “We identified these brakes on the immune system and figured out how to use those to keep T-cells that are in your body going and generate big numbers … of T-cells that will kill cancer cells.”
What’s important to know about this class of medication is the effectiveness is largely dependent on the amount of a specific protein the patient has, called PD-L1. A patient who has more of a PD-L1 expression will respond much better to checkpoint inhibitors.
For a small but significant percentage of lung cancer patients, genetic testing and significant research has created a new type of treatment that can target specific genetic mutations.
“It’s amazing to me now that you can have stage 4 lung cancer and actually not even need chemotherapy,” Dr. Brendon Stiles, a thoracic surgeon at Weill Cornell Medical Center, told SurvivorNet in a pervious conversation. “If you have high expression of a protein that we know is targeted by immunotherapy, you may just get immunotherapy alone.”
Dr. Brendon Stiles on how immunotherapy has changed the game for lung cancer.
Two New Targeted Drugs
Erlotinib (Tarceva) and gefitinib (Iressa) are among the first targeted drugs approved to treat lung cancer, he explained. These and other similar drugs given as pills target epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a protein that, when overreactive, makes cancer cells grow and divide.
These mutations are more common in people with lung cancer who are female or who have never smoked, Dr. Ronald Natale, director of the Lung Cancer Clinical Research Institute at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told SurvivorNet.
Dr. Ronald Natale on targeted therapy for lung cancer
These drugs have had success in prolonging the time that the cancer does not worsen, both alone and in combination with chemotherapy and immunotherapy. If the cancer does develop resistance to the drug, alternative treatments are then considered.