Is Cancer Close to a Cure?

An article written by Maria Cohut and fact checked by Jasmin Collier was recently published on the state of cancer.  Are we close to a cure?  This is the leading cause of death across the United States.  There have been many studies on how to stop cancer in its tracks, but just how close are we to finding more effective treatments against it?

According to The World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 1 in 6 deaths are contributed to cancer.  In fact, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimated that 1,688,780 new cancer cases and 60,920 cancer-related deaths occurred in 2017.  To date the common types of treatment for cancer are chemotherapy, radiotherapy, tumor surgery and in prostate and breast cancer, hormonal therapy.

Other treatments are beginning to increase either on their own or in combination, and meant to help defeat cancer more efficiently.  These ideally also have fewer side effects.

Some hard issues facing the providers and patients include aggressive treatment with unwanted side effects, tumor recurrence, surgery and those aggressive cancers that are resilient to treatments.

A lot of attention has been on immunotherapy.  This is to reinforce our own bodies’ existing arsenal to fight foreign bodies and harmful cells.  This is our immune system’s response to the spread of cancer.  Many types of cancer can fool the immune system by ignoring them or giving them a helping hand.  They are learning how to deactivate the protective systems.  By blocking the two relevant signaling pathways, they can re-enable the white blood cells to do their work.

Therapeutic viruses could be a surprising weapon to fight against cancer.  They have managed to use a reovirus to attack brain cancer cells while still leaving the healthy ones alone.  This type of immunotherapy could be used effectively to treat those with aggressive brain cancers.  Also, where dendritic cells are collected from a person’s body armed with tumor-specific antigens, it will teach them to hunt and destroy relevant cancer cells and inject back into the body to boost the immune system.  A pitfall in the U.S. is the difficulty to control the effects, and healthy tissue may sometimes be attacked along with the cancer tumors.

Nanotechnology and nanoparticle developments deliver drugs straight to the tumor and hunt down micro tumors with accuracy and efficiency.  These are microscopic particles and they bring the chance to develop precise less invasive methods of tackling cancer.  The cancer cells can be targeted without harming the healthy cells.  A game changer was discovered with a self-regulating nanoparticle that was able to expose tumors to heat while avoiding contact with the healthy tissue.  These can be loaded with drugs to hunt down the cancer stem cells in preventing the growth or recurrence of cancer.

Starving tumors of the nutrients is another strategy.  By blocking the cancer cells to glutamine, it maximizes the impact of oxidative stress that eventually induces cell death.

Cancer research is going at full speed to take advantage of all that technological advances can offer.  There are many promising effective treatments in the early stages, but it doesn’t mean they will all work.  Keeping optimistic for the future and working ahead to confront cancer keeps us ahead of the fight against this disease.

Dr Fredda Branyon