About 18 million people were diagnosed with cancer (global data) in 2018. Of those cases, 9.5 million were men and 8.5 million were women.
Here are the top five types of cancers reported:
- Lung cancer – over 2 million new cases
- Breast cancer – over 2 million new cases
- Colorectal cancer – 1.8 million new cases
- Prostate cancer – 1.3 million
- Stomach cancer – over one million new cases
Cancer is a problem worldwide. No nation is exempt. Patients who receive a cancer diagnosis are sometimes panic-stricken. The physician’s finding can seem like a death sentence. They think cancer is incurable.
But there is hope.
Cancer research has come a long way in the past few decades. In this article, we’ll look at some of the new ways we can fight cancer, prolong life, and restore health to those afflicted.
Examples of Advances in the Treatment of Cancer
Benjamin Franklin’s saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is as true today as it was in 1748. If we can determine the cause of a disease, we can prevent it.
But cancer is tricky. There are many factors involved, and we can control some of them — but not all. You don’t have to use tobacco or use a tanning bed, for instance, but there is very little you can do about daily exposure to UV rays or your personal genetics.
Let’s look at recent scientific efforts to understand, prevent, and cure cancer.
Cancer Research in General
With better therapies available, cancer patients have more reasons to be hopeful that their case can result in a favorable outcome.
Here are several examples of research findings that have led to our ability to understand and treat many types of cancers.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors can help the body’s immune system act against cancer and other diseases.
Pembrolizumab is an immunotherapy drug now approved for the treatment of advanced solid tumors that have either mismatch repair (MMR), genomic changes, or high microsatellite instability (MSI-H) genomic changes.
Cancer cells have a protective mechanism that blocks them from being targeted by the immune cells of our bodies. Pembrolizumab counteracts that barrier. It blocks the protective mechanism of cancer cells allowing the immune system to kill it, or rather, command the cancer cell to kill itself.
Pembrolizumab is the first approved cancer drug where the treatment philosophy is based on tumor genetics rather than the site of the cancer or the type of cancer cell.
Non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) makes up about 85% of lung cancers. Pembrolizumab with standard chemotherapy has also been approved for the initial treatment of this, based on a study that shows that the chances of NSCLC worsening was almost halved when that particular combination was used.
Targeted therapy drugs are a newer type of chemotherapy. Typical chemo drugs flow throughout the body. Targeted drugs are more specialized.
Cancer cells are still our cells, but they’re different in their DNA and in the proteins they produce. These differences are detected by targeted therapy drugs. That helps prevent damage to normal, healthy cells.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that can lead to cervical cancer. This year, it’s expected that over 13,000 women in the USA will be diagnosed with the disease and over 4,200 will die from it.
But there is hope in the fight against HPV-caused cervical cancer. We now have vaccines that can help prevent over 90 percent of occurrences.
Another example is cancer of the liver. The leading causes are Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and excessive consumption of alcohol. Screening procedures to identify hepatitis infections and risk factors have advanced considerably, and treatment centers to help people who are troubled by alcohol problems.
Stomach cancer is often caused by infection of Helicobacter pylori bacteria. Researchers are hopeful that a suitable vaccine will soon be found to help sufferers of this often fatal disease.
Funds for cancer research are limited, so advancements can be difficult to achieve — even though the need is high.
Olaparib is a poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitor being used for the treatment of breast cancer. Comparing with standard chemotherapy, olaparib lowered the chances of worsening cancer by 42% and lessened the chances of getting side effects to 37%.
Monica Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD is president of the American Society of Clinical Ontology. In the 2019 report, Clinical Cancer Advances, she wrote the following:
Cancer treatment advances are only as good as patients’ ability to access them. But, for far too many patients, high-quality cancer care and clinical trials are out of reach. We have much work to do
The good news is that many types of cancer that were once thought untreatable are now routinely “cured” — meaning there is no sign of remission, even after years have elapsed since treatment.
Other cancers are proving more difficult to understand, but dedicated researchers are looking daily at lab results and other data to formulate better ways to treat the second leading cause of death in the USA:
Please Note: The articles on Dr. Andy Higgins’ website are obtained from a variety of sources. While they pertain to the treatment of breast cancer, colon cancer, and other maladies, their presence here is not to help diagnose or treat any disease, but to stimulate conversation about health-related issues. All articles are cleared by an editor, but not necessarily by Doctor Higgins himself.