Despite the advancements in the medical field, cancer remains to be one of the hardest diseases to cure. It continues to affect and kill millions every year, including children. Even people who appear perfectly healthy can develop it. As such, cancer is sometimes called a traitorous illness.
Fortunately, prevention, screening, and treatment methods for cancer are continuously improving. These days, people can undergo painless tests to determine their risk levels, or whether they have the disease or not. In terms of a cure, however, the ultimate one is yet to be discovered. While there are numerous anti-cancer drugs already approved, they’re mainly for managing the symptoms. We still need to conduct more research to arrive at the breakthrough we’ve all been waiting for.
Meanwhile, some cancer patients turn to alternative treatments, which tend to be surrounded by controversy. Cannabis, for example, has been believed to slow down the growth of cancer cells. While animal studies have shown that cannabinoids (e.g., THC or CBD) may indeed do such, there is no proof yet that it can help control or cure the disease.
Hence, to finally find the ultimate cure, we must track these latest developments:
1. New Breast Cancer Screening Strategy: Focused on Dense Breasts
Researchers proposed a new method for screening breast cancer, which uses dense breasts of women over 40 as a baseline for determining how often should women undergo mammography. The Annals of Internal Medicine suggest that this approach may help decrease deaths to breast cancer.
Dense breast tissue affects many women below 50 years old. It can make breast cancer detection difficult, because mammograms may be unable to spot cancers in dense breasts. Hence, dense-breasted women may face a higher risk for developing cancer. This is worsened by the fact that dense breast tissue tends to divide frequently, which can lead to either misdiagnoses or the mutation of cancer cells.
In light of this development, women with dense breasts are advised to see their doctors to seek recommendations on what type of screening is best for them.
2. New Drug Class Alert: Increase Survival Rates of Bladder Cancer
A new drug class called antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) was found to significantly increase the survival chances of patients with advanced bladder cancer. The study about the drug class is published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
What makes ADC phenomenal is that unlike chemotherapy, it doesn’t attack healthy and normal cells. Instead, it precisely targets the bladder cancer cells only. As such, ADC provides a beacon of hope to bladder cancer patients with limited chances of survival.
3. New Drug Can Perform Targeted Treatment for Triple-negative Breast Cancer
Australia-based scientist Dr. Najoua Lalaoui has been studying a new drug that may target cancer cells in triple-negative breast cancer. The drug is called birinapant. If her research yields favorable results, the drug could become one of the first targeted treatments for triple-negative breast cancer.
Cancer drugs are developed using different approaches. One is accidental discovery, which led to the development of a treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, this approach is incredibly rare.
Another approach is testing plants, fungi, and animals. In-Vivo Pharmacology is an example of an animal-testing approach for drug development. It uses different tumor models, including those that are derived from mice. Specimens are collected from all over the world in hopes of finding the ultimate miracle drug.
4. Cancer Gene That Spreads Lung Cancer May Pave the Way for New Treatments
Professor Andrew Fry of the University of Leicester learned how the cancer gene that spreads lung cancer could be used to develop new treatments. Such discovery was possible thanks to another approach to drug development, which is studying the biology of cancer cells.
In this approach, researchers compare the genes found in DNA and the growth patterns of cancer cells to healthy cells. This allows them to identify the abnormalities in cancer cells, and how they spread throughout the body. Researchers will then develop a drug that can treat those abnormalities. As a result, if a patient’s tumor tested positive for that particular abnormality, the drug can treat them.
5. Alternative Treatments
Alternative treatments, including acupuncture therapy and art or music therapy, continue to be popular among cancer patients. In fact, nearly 40% of Americans believe that alternative treatments alone can cure cancer. But the truth is, skipping or delaying medical treatments can allow cancer to grow and spread throughout the body.
Therefore, instead of solely relying on alternative treatments, patients should combine them with medical treatments and prescription drugs. Cancer is a very hard-to-treat disease, and so far, alternative treatments are only proven to improve emotional well-being.
We may still be far from developing the ultimate cure, but these breakthroughs have been promising to say the least. As more laboratories and pharmaceutical companies conduct clinical trials, we’ll get closer and closer to our goal: to cure, not just to treat cancer.