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Non-small Cell Lung Cancer

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If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer, you may be trying to learn as much as possible about the disease and its treatments. Read on to find out more.

The information on this website should be discussed with your healthcare professional and does not replace their advice.

What is non-small cell lung cancer?

The most common type of lung cancer is known as non-small cell lung cancer.
There are three types of non-small cell lung cancer. Each is named according to cells in which they start.

The three types are:

  • Adenocarcinoma – usually in the outer part of the lungs
  • Squamous cell carcinoma – usually in the bigger airways
  • Large cell undifferentiated carcinoma – the cell type is not clear.

Treatment with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab)

Your doctor will plan your treatment according to your individual circumstances. These include the stage and type of your cancer, the results of any biomarker tests, your breathing ability (lung function) and your general health.

KEYTRUDA is an immunotherapy that may be used to treat non-small cell lung cancer:

  • After your lung cancer has been removed by surgery to help prevent it from coming back. Your lung cancer must be stage IB (with your tumour ≥4 cm in size), stage II, or stage IIIA.
  • As your first treatment option when your lung cancer tests positive for PD-L1 and tests negative for certain “EGFR” or “ALK” gene changes and:
    • Your cancer has not spread outside your chest (stage III) and you cannot have surgery or chemotherapy with radiation; or
    • Your cancer has spread to other areas of your body (metastatic).
  • When your lung cancer has spread (advanced), your tumour tests positive for PD-L1, and you have already received a certain type of chemotherapy. If your tumour tests positive for certain “EGFR” or “ALK” gene changes, you must already have been treated with a targeted therapy before receiving KEYTRUDA.
  • In combination with chemotherapy as your first treatment option when your lung cancer has spread to other areas of your body (metastatic) and is a type called “non-squamous” and tests negative for certain “EGFR” or “ALK” gene changes.
  • In combination with chemotherapy as your first treatment option when your lung cancer has spread to other areas of your body (metastatic) and is a type called “squamous”.

Talk to your doctor to see if KEYTRUDA may be right for you.

KEYTRUDA is funded as the first treatment option for patients with non-small cell lung cancer which has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic), or is advanced and cannot be removed by surgery – further restrictions apply.

KEYTRUDA is not funded for the treatment of patients with advanced non-small lung cancer who have already received chemotherapy, or for use after surgery to remove the cancer.


Expand for more information on terms and definitions related to non-small cell lung cancer.

Terms you may find useful:

A molecule found in blood, other body fluids or tissues that can be a sign of cancer.

Biomarker test
A laboratory test that may help diagnose some types of cancer or help plan and assess treatment.

Tiny parts of your biological makeup that tell your cells how to grow and act.

A doctor who specialises in treating cancer with drug therapies – for example, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

The expected outcome of your cancer. Your doctor is the best person to ask about your prognosis, but it is not possible for anyone to predict the exact course of cancer.

A protein that may protect cancer cells from being detected by the immune system.

A new or abnormal growth of tissue on or in the body. Tumours can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

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Questions to ask your doctor

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Patient Resources


Cancer Council Australia. 2022. Understanding Lung Cancer. A guide for people with cancer, their families and friends.
Available at:
Accessed on 14/04/2023


KEYTRUDA Consumer Medicine Information

PHARMAC. The Pharmaceutical Schedule.
Available at:
Accessed on 03/02/2024

National Cancer Institute. NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. Biomarker.
Available at:
Accessed on 17/12/2019

National Cancer Institute. Biomarker Testing for Cancer Treatment.
Available at:
Accessed on 20/10/2023

National Cancer Institute. NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. PD-L1.
Available at:
Accessed on 25/08/2020

NZ-KEY-00871. TAPS DA 2339KN TAPS NP20132. First Issued February 2024.