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7 Envisioned Innovations in Cancer Therapy

BY Ariba KhaliqFeb 19, 2015

Cancer Therapy Needs Inventions

With a million new cases being reported every year, cancer seems to be tightening its grip on India. Experts say the incidence of the killer disease is expected to rise five-fold by 2025. Nearly seven lakh Indians die of cancer every year, while over 10 lakh are newly diagnosed with some form of the disease. Such high cancer mortality is alarming and needs medical innovations to put significant impact on improving patient care. Following are some cancer-specific innovations over the past several years that have the biggest ongoing impact.

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Personalized Genomics

A lot of what is known is that the one-shot gun approach for all breast cancers or lung cancers does not work. Tumours have considerable genetic variability that indicates that certain treatments are appropriate. Genomic-based blood tests can determine which treatments would be most effective in fighting the cancer, sparing patients unnecessary and toxic drugs. Genomics is just now beginning to reach its full potential. The following years could be the breakthrough of individualized treatments for tumours.

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Immunotherapy

Understanding tumours’ genetic profile can also unveil how they evade our immune system. When that will be learned, experts will have a large ability to go past where they are now. But already, there has been headway in training the immune system to fight cancer. In 2011, the drug ipilimumab emerged for the treatment of multiple melanoma, a form of skin cancer that “was once a death sentence.” Ipilimumab has greatly extended the longevity of melanoma patients. This class of drugs is said to have huge potential use especially in solid tumours.

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Hepatitis C Drugs Stop Liver Cancers

Hepatitis C is a liver disease that can change into cancer. In 2013, a drug called Sofosbuvir, the first oral Hepatitis C treatment, was in the final stages of Food and Drug Administration approval. The drug was approved and became “extremely popular” 2014, because it holds tremendous benefit for the baby boomer generation (people born during the demographic Post–World War II baby boom between the years 1946 and 1964). They disproportionately suffer from Hepatitis C, since the blood supply was not screened for the disease until 1992.

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Intra-Operative Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer

Recent studies have shown that a single shot of targeted radiation called intra-operative radiation therapy – which is given at the time of breast surgery – is just as effective in treating breast cancer as whole breast radiation over several courses. The latter approach, which is more toxic, has also been “psychologically and physically problematic.” Targeted radiation does away with a lot of that, and the outcome is just as good. It’s a treatment that, for many women, will decrease side effects and improve outcomes. Many more women are willing to go through it.

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Ct Scans for Early Lung Cancer Detection

People who quit smoking have traditionally worried about their risk of developing lung cancer. And this has traditionally been a neglected group because X-rays have not been able to pick up small nodules that could morph into cancer. Now a CT scan provides 3-D images of lungs. The scan has strong prognostic value as to whether you are likely to get lung cancer. It’s helping a group of people who have quit smoking to stay well. It will spot nodule early enough to treat and doesn’t lead to adverse effects for the individual. That’s a real psychological benefit.

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Selective Genomic Testing

“If we test large populations of patients, are we equipped to handle the information? And if you can’t change one’s risk, how much of a service/disservice are you giving to patients [with the tests]?” asks Brian Bolwell, chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute. He adds that deciding how much testing is useful is a clinical challenge. While the boon in drugs based on DNA abnormalities is promising for patients, improving outcomes and reducing side effects, “a distinct minority of patients have their outcomes changed,” he says.

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Teaching Cancer Cells to Behave

We all have oncogenes in us. Only in some people, however, do these cancer-causing genes reach their full potential as cancer cells. And while most treatments have focused on killing these cells, recent research has focused on changing the nature of cancer cells. Can a cancer cell be taken and turned from being malignant into something that doesn’t grow uncontrollably? Encouraging trial data on this approach was presented last summer at the European Hematology Association conference.

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