Innovations in cancer therapy hold a remarkable potential to transform the treatment of the disease. According to the World Health Organization, cancer causes nearly one out of every six deaths globally. In the coming decades, new cancer diagnoses are expected to increase by approximately 70 percent. Fortunately, new developments in knowledge, technology, and precision medicine continue to materialize at lightning speed, paving a way for better prevention, detection, and disease management for patients.
1. Immunotherapy: Defense System
Tumors have a knack for adapting to their surroundings and evading detection as abnormal objects. With immunotherapy, the body’s immune system is trained to better fight cancer. Laboratory scientists study a patient’s tumor to determine biomarkers that indicate whether a specific immunotherapy could succeed at waking the immune system’s attack response.
2. Radioactive Elements
Brachytherapy involves planting radioactive pellets at the location of a malignant tumor. This method is used to treat cancer of the cervix, prostate, brain, and other parts of the body. Traditionally, this procedure uses radioactive elements such as palladium or iodine.
In one research, 13 patients received cesium-131 brachytherapy after previous radiation therapies failed to stop the spread of their brain cancer. Cesium is the 55th element on the periodic table. According to the April 2017 Journal of Neurosurgery study, the implants were able to control the tumor and limit the risk of side effects.
Cesium-131 brachytherapy implants provided less damage to healthy brain tissue than other radiation treatments like Gamma Knife and CyberKnife, says study co-author Dr. Theodore Schwartz, a neurosurgery expert at the New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine. Because of its promising results, the researchers are urging more trials to further analyze Cesium-131’s efficacy.
3. Towards An AI Future
In 2017, Microsoft announced their project of building a laboratory and having a team of computer scientists and researchers dedicated to solving cancer. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are at the core of its premise. The company aims to use natural language processing and machine learning to create individualized cancer treatments.
Computers will help identify tumor progressions and create algorithms that scientists can use to understand how the disease develops – and how to fight it. With all the information they can gather, they might be able to find a way to program cells that fight cancer directly. From programming computers to biology, the team is working to unlock more applications for better treatments.
4. Blood Tests 2.0
Liquid biopsies check for mutations and other shifts in DNA shed from tumors in the blood. These give insights into the earliest signs of cancer. In their early 2018 report, Research and Markets estimated the global liquid biopsy market to surpass the $5 billion mark by the end of 2023.
North America currently has the biggest market for the liquid biopsy industry, and in 2016, the U.S. FDA approved the first liquid biopsy test for cancer testing. This revolutionary non-invasive procedure has great potential as an instrument for routine cancer testing and an alternative to tumor biopsy.
5. Intraoperative Radiation For Breast Cancer
If you were to get treatment for breast cancer, would you prefer surgery and several weeks of daily hospital visits for radiation therapy, or a single dose of radiation administered during the surgery? Intraoperative radiation treatment allows a properly selected woman to get all of her local regional treatment with one trip to the operating room. However, the patient must meet the tight criteria in terms of age, size and type of cancer, whether it is a single or multiple tumors, and if it can respond to hormone therapy drugs.
6. Nano Devices, Big Changes
Nanoparticles are 100-to-10,000 times tinier than human cells. As such, these devices able to explore many areas of the body and detect disease. They can also deliver medication and other types of treatments.
In 2017, scientists at Rutgers University-New Brunswick designed a highly-effective method to identify small tumors using light-emitting nanoscale instruments. This can help the medical community in finding cancer at its early stages and create more targeted treatments.
This new technology involves microscopic optical devices called nanoprobes, which release short-wave infrared light as they move through the bloodstream. They are able to show clearer results than magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other cancer surveillance procedures, according to a 2017 report published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.
Vidya Ganapathy, an assistant research professor at Rutgers’ Department of Biomedical Engineering, says that the probe follows cancer cells wherever they go, even in the smallest niches in the body. This helps doctors to treat tumors intelligently because now they can see the address of the cancer.
7. At-Home Genetic Testing
Consumers can now use home kits to learn whether they have three BRCA gene mutations linked to ovarian, breast, and possibly other types of cancer. The FDA has recently given the go-ahead for consumer BRCA testing, for which users provide a saliva sample to be analyzed by the company 23andMe.
Since there are more than 1,000 known mutations that exist, results from the kits do not provide a comprehensive output. But, this isn’t all for making treatment decisions. Hopefully, the direct-to-consumer genetic testing will be able to start a discussion and help users explore their options for further screening. Consumers should always consult with their healthcare provider whether to explore more thorough testing.
8. Precision Cancer Medicine
In contrast to one-size-fits-all treatment, precision medicine tackles personalization according to the individual needs of the patient. It takes the patient’s medical history, genetic makeup, test results, environment, and lifestyle into account. The ability to pinpoint genetic mutations in a tumor by genomic sequencing allows oncologists to use targeted therapies appropriately.
The anti-cancer progress is a terrific trend. Even though cancer diagnoses are expected to rise, cancer mortality rates are also dropping dramatically thanks to emerging technologies. Better prevention, earlier detection, and an explosion of improved treatments and genetic knowledge all play a part.
At New Hope Unlimited, we take part in providing individualized treatment with the least side effects and empower people who are fighting cancer. Call us at (480) 473-9808 to know your options.