World Cancer Day is observed annually on February 4, with the primary aim to raise significant awareness regarding the devastating nature of cancers affecting the different organs within the body and taking necessary steps on its prevention, early detection, and treatment. This initiative was taken jointly by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and World Health Organisation (WHO) in the year 2000. The theme for this year is "Close The Care Gap," and its primary objective is to campaign and deliver the powerful reminder that people afflicted with cancer are not alone, and we all shall commit and share the responsibility of diminishing the global impact of this deadly disease.
Cancer is a global health aberration chiefly responsible for one in six deaths. Treating this deadly malignant condition has been a highly complex process. But, with the latest innovations in the field of science to tame the immune system to combat cancer cells, we are gradually coming closer to a future where cancer becomes curable and isn't feared anymore.
The modern era of cancer treatment is continuously evolving, with the latest breakthrough techniques and discoveries changing the course of cancer care at a rapid clip. Settling on the right combination of treatments necessary for the particular type of cancer is not only critical but also an overwhelming decision. That's why it is extremely necessary to depend on the treating doctors at every stage of cancer.
While conventional treatment approaches, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immune therapy, and organ transplant, have been in use for quite some time now, there have been significant advances in recent times, including stem cell therapy, targeted therapy, ablation therapy, vaccinations intended for cancer cells, nanoparticles, natural antioxidants, chemodynamic therapy, sonodynamic therapy, radionics, microbiome therapy, and ferroptosis-based therapy.
Scroll down to learn about some of the major innovative treatment approaches for dealing with cancer in recent times.
Latest Cancer Treatment Options
Targeted Drug Therapy
Targeted drug therapy is a type of latest cancer treatment that chiefly uses selective drugs to target specific genes and proteins that mainly help the cancer cells to thrive and grow. This treatment procedure can either affect the tissue environment in which the cancer cells grow, or it can specifically target the cells that are related to the growth of malignant cells. In the case of targeted therapies, the researchers mainly work to identify the specific genetic change that helps a particular tumour to grow and mutate, making it the drug's 'target'. An exemplary target for this type of therapy is usually a protein particle that is normally present in the cancer cells but not in the healthy ones. Although there are different types of targeted therapy, the most common ones include Monoclonal antibodies and Small molecule drugs.
Targeted drug therapy can be used to treat breast cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, chronic myeloid leukemia, lymphoma, and melanoma.
Robotic surgery, a.k.a robot-assisted surgery, is the latest innovation in the surgical field that primarily employs specially trained surgeons who make use of robotic technology. It is actually a type of laparoscopic surgery that comprises tiny surgical tools, a microscopic camera or laparoscope, and a computer console to safely remove the cancerous tumour in the best possible way by creating a minor cut in the patient's skin. This high-definition surgical procedure is quite beneficial to the conventional surgical method as it causes less scarring, diminished pain, and blood loss, little to no harm to the surrounding tissues, faster recovery, and a reduced hospital stay.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy, medically termed Hematopoietic stem cell transplant or Bone marrow transplant, is a medical treatment that replaces the affected bone marrow cells with healthy ones. This type of therapy can be carried out in 2 ways:
Autologous transplant, where the bone marrow cells are taken from one's own body.
Allogenic transplant, where the bone marrow cells are matched and taken from a donor body.
Stem cell therapy can be used to treat certain types of cancer, including leukemia, myeloma, lymphoma, and other blood and immune system conditions that impact the bone marrow.
Ablation Therapy is a type of cancer treatment that destroys malignant tumours using extreme heat or cold temperatures without the need for invasive surgical options. It is mostly indicated for small-size tumours of less than 3 cm. In the case of larger tumours, Ablation along with embolization is indicated.
There are different types of Ablation techniques, including Cryoablation, Radiofrequency ablation (RFA), Microwave ablation, and High-intensity focused ultrasound, that are currently being used in the clinical setting. Among these, the most used ones include:
Also known as Cryotherapy or Cryosurgery, it uses extremely cold gas to freeze and kill cancer cells. It usually destroys the tumour tissue by concentrating on a focal zone in and around the tumour using a special probe stick. This therapy is currently used for prostate, liver, and kidney cancers.
This technique focuses extreme heat on the target tissue and nearby cells using a special probe. It is ideal for small localized tumours and is currently used for treating bone cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, and kidney cancer.
Cart-T-cell therapy is a type of cancer treatment that mainly makes the body's immune system cells hunt down and kill malignant cells. It particularly involves removing and genetically changing the immune cells called T-cells. These T-cells then produce proteins called Chimeric antigen receptors (CAR's) on the cell membrane, which is designed in such a way that it recognizes a specific molecule that is present in the tumour cell. This action activates the internal signalling domain of the molecule, instigating the body's T-cell to attack and destroy the cancer cell.
Cart-T-Cell Therapy is mainly used for the treatment of severe forms of leukemias, lymphomas, and even multiple myelomas.
Vaccines indicated for cancer cells are usually a form of immunotherapy that can help the body's immune system recognize cancer cells in advance and thereby help get rid of them. Just like any other type of vaccine, cancer vaccines use weakened or killed germs like viruses or bacteria to initiate an immune response in the body. The preliminary goal of the vaccine is to either help destroy the mutated cancer cells or to help keep them from recurring after other treatments, or sometimes even help prevent certain types of cancer.
With the currently ongoing research, right now there are three types of cancer vaccines:
Preventive Cancer Vaccines:
These are vaccines that help safeguard the body against viral infections that might lead to cancers. For e.g., some strains of the Human papillomavirus (HPV) have been correlated to cervical, anal, throat, vaginal, vulvar, and penile cancers, and hence can be prevented by taking timely vaccination for HPV. At the same time, the Hepatitis B vaccine prevents chronic (long-term) infections due to the hepatitis B virus (HBV) that might lead to liver cancer.
Therapeutic Cancer Vaccines:
Just like a person's genetic structure, even the cancerous tumour in an individual is in some sense unique and has its characteristic antigens. And hence, for an effective result, a more specific cancer vaccine is required. For e.g., the sipuleucel-T vaccine helps treat advanced prostate cancer, whereas the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, or BCG vaccine, helps treat early-stage bladder cancer.
Personalized Cancer Vaccines:
These vaccines help deliver a strong immune response against the patient's tumour cells or neoantigens while sparing the healthy cells from the severe immune attack, thus possibly deterring any side effects.
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