Cancer treatment has evolved and improved over time. Within the past few years, many new options have become available for patients that were just a dream no more than a decade ago. Some of the new methods on the forefront of cancer treatment are CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) treatments, immunotherapy, and laparoscopic imaging improvements that are making diagnoses more accurate, timely and targeted.
It is estimated that around the world, more than 8 million people die each year from cancer. There are more than 100 known types of cancer, all of which have varying degrees of severity and have a wide range of prognoses and mortality rates. In the past most cancer diagnoses were considered a death sentence, however today these diseases are being cured more frequently and with more certainty thanks to many advances in treatment that have been made. Below are some of the most recent innovations that are changing the field of cancer treatments.
CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, which is pronounced “crisper”) is a new treatment option for cancers that alters a patient’s DNA in a system called “gene editing.” This treatment identifies mutations in a patient’s genes and subsequently removes or deletes the cancerous sections of DNA. Although still experimental, this process has shown many promising results all while using an individual’s own T-cells, which are found in the body’s immune system. The edits made in the genes will then cause the cells to attack the mutated cancer cells and shrink or even remove malignant tumors. This CRISPR technology has been successful in the treatment of many breast cancer cases, and allows for many patients to get their lives and their health back.
Another treatment option that uses the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells is known as immunotherapy. This specific therapy is when a dead or extremely weakened virus (that a patient is vaccinated against) is injected directly into the cancerous cells or tumor, and the body’s immune system then attacks the cancer as if it were a virus the body was already vaccinated for. Duke University has seen an increase in survival rates for glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer that when patients have received immunotherapy treatments using a modified poliovirus. Immunotherapy has proven successful in treating cancers with bleak outlooks, such as inoperable forms like brain cancers, and cancers with aggressive prognoses and grim survival rates, like mesothelioma, a cancer of the lungs, stomach and heart.
Immunotherapy seems to be leading the race towards curing cancer as of now. The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine will be awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their work in immunotherapy research for cancer treatment.
Advances in Laparoscopic Imaging
Laparoscopic imaging has helped doctors for decades by allowing them to see inside of a patient’s body without surgically opening that area. Laparoscopic cameras are fed in through tiny incisions in other body parts and fed through to the area in question. However, these images are often low-quality and can sometimes even lead to more questions than solutions. Recently, a system called PINPOINT has come up with an improvement to laparoscopic imaging which allows physicians to see inside a patient’s body with near HD quality images. This system allows for better lighting inside of veins, organs and muscles, which in turn results in more accurate diagnoses and more precise treatment plans.
While there are still many advancements on the horizon for cancer treatments, the word cancer is no longer as scary to patients, their families and their loved ones as it once was. The average mortality rates of all cancers has been decreasing over time, which is in part due to emerging technologies in the cancer treatment field. As doctors and scientists continue to work towards emerging treatments and a cure, there is even more hope to come for patients and their families.