(TFC) – You may not have heard, but researchers have been making some amazing advancements in the field of cancer research over the past year or so. What new breakthroughs are researchers making in this field, and how are these new advances potentially changing the game?
Traditional cancer treatments, like radiation and chemotherapy, tend to have harsh side effects and often affect the entire body. Researchers in the U.K. are hoping to change that with thermotherapy. This form of cancer treatment utilizes nanoparticles that target cancer cells and increase their temperature to the point that the malignant cells die without damaging healthy ones.
The trick is to keep the cells between 42 and 45 degrees C, or 107.6 to 113 degrees F. During the trials, the nanoparticles were able to successfully generate temperatures of up to 45 degrees C, but at that point they stopped heating properly.
While thermotherapy may not be ready for mainstream use yet, it is one of the most exciting and — dare we say — the hottest new cancer treatment to be discovered in recent years! It isn’t the only exciting discovery to be made, though. There are some other stunning advancements being made in the field of cancer research that could lead to a potential cure in the future.
Minnelide Oral Formulation
Minnelide is a fairly new drug that has been approved for the treatment of pancreatic and liver cancers, but until recently, this water-soluble drug was used intravenously. It is derived from a plant known as the Thunder God Vine, which has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for 2,000 years or more. Recently, the drug’s parent company, Minneamrita, announced that an oral formulation has entered its first phase of clinical trials.
Minnelide is one of the most effective treatments for liver and pancreatic cancer, especially when paired with chemotherapy such as Abraxane. The oral formulation makes it easier for the drug to be administered, and will hopefully improve drug compliance and efficacy.
Immunotherapy for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
Immunotherapy for cancer treatment relies on the body’s own immune system to help fight cancer. It works in one of two ways — either bolstering your own immune system or using manmade components such as proteins to give your immune system the tools to win the fight itself. The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Tennessee is the first treatment center in the country that has been approved to use this form of therapy as a cancer treatment.
This new treatment has great potential for patients who might not have survived longer than six months, and the majority of those who have participated in the clinical trial report that their cancer has been in remission for more than two years.
Genetic Changes and Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy is potentially a game-changing treatment for a variety of different cancers, but it doesn’t always work as advertised. Specifically, patients who have been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer often develop a resistance to the immunotherapy, even if it was originally an effective treatment.
In an effort to understand why some patients develop a resistance to this form of therapy, researchers at Yale sampled the genome of the cells before and after treatment and found a distinct genetic mutation present in post-treatment samples. While we may be a long way from being able to restore immunotherapy effectiveness in patients who experience this resistance, this is the first piece in this cancer treatment puzzle.
Almost Immediate Cancer Detection
Early detection of cancer is essential to provide the best chance at successful treatment and survivability. A new form of computer-assisted diagnosis could more accurately identify colorectal polyps and determine whether they are malignant or benign, using endoscopic imagery.
A study was conducted using imagery from 250 male and female participants. A medical AI system was able to assess more than 300 polyps that were discovered in the endoscope imagery and determine in less than a second if they were cancerous or not.
This relies on machine learning — the AI has a database of more than 30,000 images that were used to teach the program how to identify the different types of colorectal cancer. This type of program could potentially save lives once it gains regulatory approval. Identifying colorectal cancer can be difficult, and many patients with detected polyps often find themselves facing unnecessary biopsies. This identifying software could change that by removing the need for surgery unless a polyp is identified as cancerous.
We’re still probably some time away from finding a cure for cancer, but if these new advances are any indication, we’re moving in the right direction. It will take some time for a lot of this research to complete clinical trials and gain FDA approval, but in the meantime, these new advances are a ray of hope for individuals diagnosed with cancer and their families. They could be huge game changers if they prove successful and widely applicable.