The diagnosis and treatment of various cancers have undergone a rapid transformation in the last few years alone. As researchers are better able to understand the disease, the treatment options have multiplied and become more customized. Here are five of the most interesting and promising medical advancements that are being applied to the treatment of cancer:
Genetic Over Location
In May of 2017, the FDA approved a revolutionary treatment protocol that targets cancer-based on its genetic makeup rather than the type of tumor or its location in the body. This personalized brand of treatment is more effective in helping patients who had previously been resistant to the standard regimen. The National Cancer Institute explains that “Each person’s cancer has a unique combination of genetic changes, and tumor DNA sequencing—sometimes called genetic profiling or genetic testing—is a test to identify these unique DNA changes. In some cases, knowledge of the genetic alterations in your cancer can help determine a treatment plan.”
Brain Cancer Treatment Hope
Recent research has demonstrated the effectiveness of combining a variety of treatment methods in an attempt to thwart the growth of brain cancers such as glioblastoma. Tumor-treating fields (TTF) are emerging as a promising treatment by delivering low-intensity electrical fields directly to the brain tumor. Used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation, TTF’s are quickly showing their effectiveness.
Lung Cancer Hope
In recent years, advancements have been made in the technology used to screen for lung cancer, increasing the likelihood that it will be detected at a very early stage. The American Lung Association states that “If [lung cancer] is caught before it spreads, the likelihood of surviving 5 years improves from 11 percent to 55 percent.” In addition to better screenings to catch lung cancer, rapid advancements in the treatment protocol of the disease have also helped to slow its growth. Using a new immune checkpoint inhibitor in combination with chemotherapy has shown promise in stopping the progression of the disease.
Extended Hormone Therapy
For patients suffering from breast cancer, extended hormone therapy might be the new norm. Although the traditional standard of care is currently five years of aromatase inhibitor therapy, new research that extends that treatment by even just one year longer may lower the risk of recurrence enough to justify continuing the therapy for a longer period of time. The longer treatment period is most beneficial for women who were diagnosed with early forms of breast cancer.
As one of the most promising treatments to come out recently, immunotherapy treats cancer by activating or suppressing the immune system, depending on the need. Cell-based immunotherapies have given many patients hope in the treatment of a variety of responsive cancers. What was once experimental is now becoming standard in an effort to wipe out the disease. According to The Scientific American, researchers “are starting to figure out when it’s more important to take the brakes off the body’s immune responses, when to step on the accelerator to get a sluggish reaction into high gear—and when they can safely do both. As investigators study different combinations of treatments and dosages, they can see improvements in response rates and believe they are getting a better handle on some of the most severe side effects.”
Although some of these treatments are still in the infancy stage, the results show much promise for cancer patients. As funding and research continue to increase, more and more innovative treatments will give cancer patients hope for the future.
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