HOUSTON -

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women, but adding proteins to chemotherapy treatment could help patients beat the disease.

Each year, more than 220,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer.

A University of Tennessee doctor is researching how adding immune-boosting antibodies to chemotherapy drugs can help make the treatment more successful.

"If you have a cell that is requiring oxygen and you interfere with the nutrition, you interfere with the way it gets the cells to grow, that's it, it'll die,” said Dr. Wahid T. Hanna.

The antibody attaches itself to cancer cells, making the cancer vulnerable to being destroyed by a patient’s own immune system.

Kimberly Thomas has small cell carcinoma. It’s a very aggressive form of lung cancer. After six rounds of the chemotherapy combined with the antibody, Thomas’ tumor in her lung shrunk by more than half.

"It makes me feel ecstatic that there's hope," said Thomas.

After patients complete the combination treatment, they can choose to continue taking the antibody without the chemotherapy.