Over the past decades, great strides were made, and a lot of efforts were taken to combat cancer. Today, let us talk about the most recent developments about it.
This is a kind of therapy where your immune system is going to work and hunt down cancer cells. They will do this in the same way as they hunt for bacteria and viruses. After that, the immune system will destroy the cancerous cells.
However, there is one big challenge in the development of this cure. Cancer cells are great at hiding themselves. As such, the immune system cannot detect them. As a result, the cancer cells can grow even if your body attempts to look for them.
There is hope. Immunotherapy has been advancing over the last decades. Today, immunotherapy has been at the forefront of cancer treatment. Now, we can depend on the immune system to detect cancer, even if the cancer cells are attempting to hide.
There are several forms of immunotherapy, and below are some:
- Monoclonal antibodies – these are proteins that help the immune system spot the cancer cell invaders. They look for invaders like viruses and bacteria. This kind of antibody looks for an antigen. The antibodies used in the treatment are designed in a laboratory, and they are designed to look for antigens of cancer cells.
- Checkpoint inhibitors – our immune system has cells that we call T Cells. What they do is look for foreign cells and destroy them. They are basically our army. If a cell is healthy, it has proteins, which is called checkpoint in the medical world. If a cell has a checkpoint, the inhibitors will not attack these cells.
- Cancer vaccines – yes, there are vaccines for cancer. These vaccines help your immune system fight the disease. These vaccines are called therapeutic vaccines. Some of them may be made from your own cancer cells. Once they are developed into a vaccine, they will be injected back, so the immune system can recognize them.
Cancer vaccines are difficult to make. The problem is the same as what we have mentioned earlier—cancer cells know how to hide. And if this is the case, it would be difficult for the doctors to find them, much less get them and turn them into a vaccine.
In some cases, immunotherapy may not work. In this case, gene-based treatment is the way to go. This kind of treatment is personalized. Cancer comes in many genetic types. The study of genes, which is called genomics, is about the changes that happen in your DNA. This will give doctors some clues as to what the best treatment should be used to fight your cancer.
Specifically, what doctors look for are mutations. These mutations in cancer genes are the things that help them diagnose your cancer, predict what is likely to happen and then determine the best type of treatment that will cure your cancer.
The thing with gene-based treatment is that it may only work for people whose cancer instigated gene changes. This is why some drugs are only administered to people who show signs of these gene changes.
This type of therapy uses viruses. A virus destroys its host cell. It is part of its lifecycle. Now, if you can create a virus that gets only attracted to a cancer cell, then that virus will only seek a cancer cell and then eventually destroy it. Virotherapy is one of the ways to kill cancer cells in a selective manner.
Viruses used in this kind of therapy are called oncolytic viruses. They are modified so that they will only target cancer cells. Once they are inside the cancer cells, they can only replicate inside them. What this means is that they will not go to healthy cells, and they cannot replicate inside a healthy cell.
If you think about it, virotherapy is similar to nanoparticles, which we will discuss later. The only catch with the virus is that it may not work on all forms of cancers.
Another advancement that we have seen is the use of hormones. Hormones are naturally produced in the body. In cancer, the goal is to block the production of certain hormones. Some cancer cells are dependent on specific hormones. If the body does not produce enough of this hormone, the cancer cell will have a hard time multiplying. Right now, hormone therapy is one of the primary ways to fight breast cancer. It is also used in prostate and uterine cancer.
Although this seems something like it came out of a sci-fi movie, it is now becoming a reality. Nanoparticles are small particles that are man-made. They are smaller than cells. Because they are so small, they can be used to administer treatment directly inside the cancer cells.
Nanoparticles are still in the infancy stages of development. However, we already have real nanoparticles. The challenge that remains now is how we can control them. If we can control them like we control robots, we can send them to a tumor site and then destroy cancer cells without damaging healthy cells around the tumor area.
What Is the Future?
Like anything on this planet, cancer research is moving forward. It is like other technologies and industries, especially the gaming industry where companies like Vulcan Vegas spearhead major developments in their field of interest and adapt to a fast-changing market. Medicine, in turn, adopts those tech advancements, which can be applicable to it and combine them with medical researches to evolve and provide better solutions for health care and treatment.