How Medical Advances Are Changing the Way Cancer is Treated
February 21, 2018
Recent advances in medicine are increasing the treatment options available to patients with certain types of cancer - options that not long ago would have been considered more science fiction than fact.
Some of these breakthrough treatments include:
Also called biological therapy, immunotherapy drugs use the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.
Because cancer cells originate as normal cells, the immune system may fail to recognize them as foreign, leaving them free to replicate out of control.
Designed in the laboratory, immunotherapy drugs alert the immune system about these mutated cells so they can be located and destroyed. Physician scientists at University Hospitals are at the forefront of research to find, test and develop immunotherapy drugs that have the potential to become the anti-cancer treatment of the future.
Genomic or Personalized Medicine
Most cancers are associated with damaged or mutated DNA. Analyzing gene sequences in a person’s DNA provides information that can be used to create custom drugs to target their cancer and keep it from growing and spreading.
These drugs target specific genes or proteins often found in cancer cells or in cells related to cancer growth, like blood vessel cells.
Also known as personalized medicine, genomic medicine and targeted therapy may hold the key to more accurate predictions, optimal treatments, and improved survival rates and quality of life for people with a wide variety of cancers.
Stem Cell Therapy
A stem cell is an immature cell that can develop into any type of cell that the body requires. For this type of therapy, healthy stem cells are collected from the blood or bone marrow of either the patient or a compatible donor.
These cells are then transplanted into the patient’s body where they replace diseased cells with new, non-cancerous cells. Stem cell therapy is proving particularly beneficial for cancers of the blood and bone marrow like leukemia, Hodgkin disease, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
A more advanced form of external radiation therapy, proton therapy provides more precise delivery of radiation to the tumor. Benefits to the patient include less damage to healthy tissue, fewer side effects, less cosmetic damage to the skin and little to no impact on the patient’s energy level.
It is not appropriate for all patients but is showing great promise in the treatment of brain, spine, head and neck, breast and lung cancers. Patients with left-sided breast cancer, in particular, may benefit in that the nearby heart muscle is less likely to be damaged by radiation.
UH Seidman Cancer Center offers more than 300 clinical trials of new therapies, all of which are searchable online.