Cancer is one of the most challenging diseases to treat, and for decades, rigorous research has been done to find the treatments. Where success has been achieved in treating many cancers in various stages over the years, many more common ones still need treatment. In 2020, cancer was the second leading cause of death after heart disease. It is enormous, and it requires concentrated efforts to find viable solutions for this prevailing problem. There have been some recent breakthroughs in research and technology which sound promising for the future of cancer treatment.
1. GENETIC TESTING
Thousands of people are at risk of cancer due to their genetic predisposition, but they never know it due to the lack of genetic testing. The landscape is changing now. The successful mapping of the human genome in 2003 gave a path for cancer treatment. Oncologists relied upon surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy for cancer treatment in the past. Now, targeted therapies are changing the game. Targeted therapies are done by adequately studying the genome of a specific tumor in that individual. The treatments target the specific mutated DNA causing cancer. The human genome study can also determine the mutations that might produce cancer in the future so that particular measures can be taken beforehand.
2. TARGETED IMMUNOTHERAPIES
Immunotherapies use the person’s immune system to target the cancer cells. These immunotherapies include CAR T cell therapy, monoclonal antibodies, and immune system modulators. Patients’ immune cells are engineered to deal with cancer cells in CAR T cell therapy. A groundbreaking discovery was the drug pembrolizumab, an immune checkpoint inhibitor that works by inhibiting the protein PD-L1, allowing immune cells to destroy cancer cells. This drug has successfully treated various skin cancers, breast, endothelial cells, etc.
3. SIMULTANEOUS DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
The City of Hope has used a radiation machine called RefleXion 1A to provide a controlled radiation therapy by limiting the damage to surrounding cells. The device can also detect the presence of a tumor elsewhere in the body during the same session in which it is acting on one tumor. The full potential of the machine is yet to be discovered. It is under trial for FDA approval. The device can potentially change the set curable standard of metastatic cancers.
4. BIGGEST BREAKTHROUGH IN COLORECTAL CANCER
Recently, during a clinical trial, a group of 18 people took an experimental drug called “dostarlimab” for six months. The tumor of every single one of them disappeared. The study is unprecedented. Nothing like that has ever been seen before. Dr. Luis Diaz, talking with the New York Times, said
“I believe this is the first time it has happened in the history of cancer.”
5. USE OF VIRAL VECTORS
Gene therapy involves the transfer of selected genetic information to the targeted cell. The transfer of genes can be achieved by using Viral Vector technology. Viral vectors mediate long-term gene expression, and they are capable of invading dividing and non-dividing cells, increasing the spectrum of targeted cells. Immunotherapies are used to treat cancer, and these therapies have utilized various viral vectors to achieve the desired results. Viral vectors are promising for the future.