Cancer is one of the most lethal diseases of modern humankind. According to some studies from the American Cancer Society Journal, the world saw 10 million deaths caused by some form of cancer in 2020. In addition, in the US alone, more than $208.9 billion is spent on curing cancer.
However, the rapid development of technology gives hope that these gloomy statistics might change in the future. And it would not be for the first time in history that technological progress caters to the human race with longer lives.
Just as we have learned to open our minds to natural and organic solutions, we keep finding new ways to learn from nature. Whether we dive deeper into molecular biomedicine to create organic facial masks, or we explore biophysics and informatics, technology and nature are shown to go hand in hand when it comes to applications in medicine.
Here are some technologies that will most probably revolutionize cancer treatment and research in the following years.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning are some of the most promising and most controversial contemporary technologies. While many people are afraid it will take away jobs and enslave the entire human race, the reality is somewhat more complex. We are still learning where and how this technology can and can’t be employed.
AI can contribute to cancer treatment in many ways:
- early cancer diagnosis
- drug creation and improvement
- eliminating the cancerogenic tissue
The AI, combined with Machine Learning (ML) and High-Performance Computing (HPC) have proved very helpful in cancer research. They are capable of analyzing great amounts of cancer data, generated by combinations of multiple biomarkers. In turn, it makes research quicker and cheaper.
Furthermore, it might sound like Sci-Fi that AI can be used to create virtual replicas of human bodies, but it is true. With AI at hand, doctors would have much more space for experimentation, without the risk for the patient. Also, they would be able to accommodate generic procedures to your particular body and needs.
Cryo-EM Technology: Seeing the Cancer Up-Close
Cancer is an illness that takes part on the cellular and molecular levels. Therefore, it can be hard to monitor how the cancer cells behave if we can’t see them.
Cryo-EM technology is here to help us see cancer cells better. The technology is not only able to make images of incredibly small cancer cells and molecules. Apart from that, they can make images in extremely high resolution.
Having these images, scientists can make 3D models of cancerogenic cells. Having the models, scientists can learn about:
- how a cancer cell grows
- survive in various surroundings
- interact with other cells
- interact with the drugs
- and how they multiply and spread.
Telehealth: Relieving The Healthcare System
Telehealth enables remote access to healthcare using telecommunication technology without patients having to leave their homes.
The concept of online medical care gained popularity during the pandemics. It proved as a convenient solution for people who live remotely and deal with highly infectious diseases.
It is of course clear that seeing a doctor online can’t ever replace a face-to-face examination. However, it can reduce unnecessary waiting in lines for a single recipe. Also, it can significantly help with the triage and redistribution of healthcare capacities in a more effective way.
In the case of cancer treatment, telehealth is a great way to monitor recovery. Additionally, there are indications that it could provide some forms of in-home chemotherapy.
Robotics: Assisting Surgeons In Removing Cancer More Efficiently
It is clear that robotics has the biggest potential to help surgical interventions. A human hand can never be as steady and as precise as a robotic one. In cases of complex brain cancer surgeries, for example, a microscopic mistake could afflict great damage to the individual.
Of course, robotic hands need humans to control them. Therefore, robotics isn’t here to replace the world’s best surgeons. Rather, it is here to help them out.
Robotics technology is beneficial in treating cancer because it:
- enables much more complex procedures
- reduces the price of procedures
- involve less blood and pain
- speeds up the recovery process.
CRISPR-Cas9: Changing Genetics to Fight the Cancer
Changes in the DNA can cause cancer. Although genes don’t guarantee that cancer will occur, a history of cancer in the family tree certainly increases the chances. However, recent research shows that we can actually change genes.
CRISPR-Cas9 is a technology that can modify genomes. Although controversial, CRISPR technology is inspired by the natural defense mechanisms of microbes.
The technology allows medical scientists to make CRISPR-edited immune cells. Once in the body, the cells are able to track down and fight cancer more easily. Otherwise, CRISPR can edit and thus deactivate the cancerogenic genes.
The best thing about CRISPR technology is that it is much more effective and affordable. Editing DNA used to be a matter of only the most proficient labs in the world. With CRISPR, things changed. It is fast, available, accurate, and fully customizable technology. Therefore, it has great chances to help fight cancer, and a series of other diseases as well.
Interestingly, scientists have been experimenting with CRISPR to make tests for the coronavirus.
It is a quite new technology. The intensive studies have started in 2013, and the scientists who perfected it won the Nobel Prize in 2020.
Each of these technologies is impressive in itself. Still, in the future, medical workers will probably use them combined. Therefore, we are heading towards a new chapter in the history of human medicine.
However, as scientists and engineers are working in favor of our health, it is important to remember that there is much we can do as well. Regular check-ups can do wonders for early discovery and easier treatment.