Fighting Cancer at the Source: Three Novel Approaches for Treatment

As one of the leading causes of death across the globe, cancer continues to be an ongoing concern for people of all ages and demographics. Over 1.8 million people will receive a cancer diagnosis this year alone, and of these new cases, nearly one-third of those numbers will perish during that same time period. Because of this, finding a reliable treatment is of the utmost importance. Yet, despite the mounting demand for a cure, modern medicine has still struggled with securing a viable option for cancer patients.

In the past, healthcare providers and oncologists typically had to rely upon antiquated techniques to help alleviate the symptoms of this highly serious and equally lethal disease. From toxic chemotherapy to invasive excision of the tumor itself, the options have remained largely limited and the outcomes relatively grim for the patient. Fortunately, emerging technology has made it possible to offer complete remission to patients – but without the severe side effects and uncertainty that were so common before.

A Focus on Targeted Immunotherapy

Our immune system works hard to help fight off a vast number of pathogens that may try to creep into our bodies in order to wreak havoc. However, when we think of how our T-cells work, we may generally picture a mild seasonal cold or an annoying but nondescript rash on our skins. That said, what if we could use our immune systems to target cancerous tumors? While the idea may initially seem farfetched – if not also idealistic – it’s no longer outside the scope of possibility.

By researching any anomalies within the tumor, oncologists are now able to apply advanced immunotherapy treatments to target the cancerous cells. This medical breakthrough, known as CAR T-cell therapy (or chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy), allows healthcare providers to modify a patient’s existing immune system and guide it into attacking the tumor. While it has already received approval by the FDA to help treat certain types of blood cancers, it shows potential for also targeting tumorous masses, as well.

How Genetics Play a Role

Our genetics play a fairly significant role in defining who we are as people. Our eye color, our height, and even our personalities can be traced back to specific single nucleotide polymorphisms in our genetic code. However, that’s not the only thing that can be identified by our DNA. Our unique ability to fight off cancer can also be found written in our genes. Not only can we now determine if we are at an elevated risk of developing cancer, but we can also create a custom-tailored approach to treating it, too.

In the past, treating cancer was not unlike a guessing game. Oncologists could try a combination of therapies, but the outcome could not be assured. With the introduction of precise genetic mapping, though, we can now help ensure a more positive prognosis. By taking a closer look at a person’s genome, physicians can use exact therapies to target any existing genetic mutations within the cancerous cells. In addition, thanks to genetic screenings, any risk factors can be deduced and the patient can take steps to reduce that risk.

The Advantage of Single-Cell Isolation

The ability to treat cancer can be, in many ways, traced back to just one, single cell. As science progresses forward in developing new treatments, the need to quickly and efficiently isolate these cancerous cells can make a notable difference in how oncologists can make deductions about the mass in question. These therapeutic investigations allow researchers to develop more advanced treatments, leading to better patient options with fewer side effects.

Through single cell isolation and analysis, oncologists can determine the genetic profile of a cancerous mass. In these cases, mutations within its genetic code can make a notable difference in its response to treatment. However, up until recently, researchers were not able to isolate these cells with the level of precision needed to extract this information. As time is of the essence, especially in metastatic and fast-growing tumors, this breakthrough shows the potential to have profound promise in cancer therapy in the coming years.

The Future of Cancer Treatment

There is no doubt that we have made incredible strides in finding novel ways to combat cancer and reduce the overall mortality rate. While archaic treatments certainly had their time and place, especially within the limited scope of knowledge in the realm of oncology, these emerging disruptive technologies are paving the way to superior outcomes in cancer patients. And as humankind continues to forge forward, leading longer and fuller lives, these therapies can make all the difference not only for the patients themselves – but also for those who love them, as well.