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Latest breakthroughs in science!

Published: 21 Mar 2018

Science is on the march to the ultimate goal of curing cancer!  And some of these advances are beyond the traditional therapies and palliative care, such as chemo, radio, and hormone therapy, as well as early screening and surgery.

Since the highest levels of cancer (per capita) were recorded in 1991, death rates have dropped by 23%.   

However, with science advancing beyond these methods, new techniques such as genetic coding and accurate, simple screening technologies are becoming a reality.

It is worth noting that these methods have only recently featured in the news and are still in their testing phase.  They will still need to gain governmental approval.  This blog is just a few of the most promising treatments in the media today.

Breast cancer detection

Breast cancer detection rates have been improving with the use of genetic screening for the last few years.  The Institute of Cancer Research London has announced it has found 110 genes linked to the development of breast cancer, most of them being fresh discoveries, using a new technique of gene analysis.

Early detection of cancers is necessary for the greatest chance of beating it.  With the discovery of yet more genes linked to the disease, this could be even better.

Using the immune system to kill off cancer (CAR T-Cell therapy)

Recent research that has hit the news have scientists boldly declaring that new, all-encompassing cancer treatments will be in human trials by 2019.  

Brace yourselves, science jargon incoming.

They have achieved this by locating immune cells from individuals that target cancer cells and kill them.  These are neutrophils – the body’s first line of the innate immune system.  They are believed to be the reason that rare individuals spontaneously shrug off potent cancers – their immune system can deal with it by itself.

The group is building a bank of these potent cells from screening donor blood, then replicating them.  These are then injected into the patient and are claimed to kill off 95% of test cancer cells within 24 hours.  There is almost no chance that they will be rejected by the recipient either.

Treatment is estimated to last 5-6 weeks and have no side effects.  If the tests are replicated in human trials then the light on the horizon has never seemed brighter.

Ovarian Cancer

New technology is being trialled which requires only a standard pap smear test to be conducted.  From this, the genetic markers for ovarian cancer can be found.  This is particularly impressive as it can incorporate old techniques that hospitals and clinics are equipped with.  If the tests are successful, uptake should be relatively fast – great news!

With 94% of patients who detect the disease in its early stages living for at least 5 years, this is another hopeful breakthrough.

Using viruses as a weapon

This has been a theory for decades, even centuries, but has not been functionable until recently.  Scientists have been developing genetically altered viruses for this purpose.  The news-grabbing success, so far, has been an altered herpes virus.  This virus is then used to ‘awaken’ the immune system to the threat of the tumour.  

Cancer hides from the immune system under the guise as a ‘normal’ body cell.  Injected viruses replicate within the cells – after some time, these cells burst, releasing the virus as well as tumour-specific antigens.  This is what ‘awakens’ the immune system to act against the cancer.
Not only do tests show success against localised tumours (those around the injection site) but can potentially invoke a body-wide systemic response!

Keep an eye on the news

These exciting test-phase breakthroughs bring more hope to the cancer battlefield.  As genetic understanding and technology continues to improve, hopefully these impressive results will be replicated in human trials.

These techniques still require approval by governmental bodies such as the FDA.  It is possible on rare occasions to apply to be part of the early stage testing, however these opportunities are few and far between.  

It is necessary to consult your doctor if you are curious about new techniques/drugs.  Always be wary; without prior approval, they are fraught with unkowns.

 

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