New Cancer Breakthroughs Offer Significant Promise

New Cancer Breakthroughs Offer Significant Promise

Recent scientific advancement in the fight against cancer is nothing less than breathtaking; it seems that cracking the human genome (and the subsequent genome of many of today’s most deadly cancer types) has lead to newer and less toxic treatments and therapies, such as immunotherapy, wherein physicians use the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells and/or stop their means of successful reproduction.

However, cancer itself is governed by strength in overall cell numbers. The greater its spread, the more of a challenge it presents when trying to eliminate it. Advancements aside, early detection remains your greatest advantage when it comes to surviving cancer.

Generally speaking, cancer is as elegant as it is tricky. It can spread slowly or rapidly and by multiple means, often times remaining elusive in parts of the body that typical scans do not penetrate.

Some cancer cells behave in one way, others in another. It seems the more physicians and scientists learn about cancer, the more there is to uncover.

One reason recent treatments symbolize new hope in the arsenal of weapons in the fight against cancer is that they pose much less potential harm to one’s health; on its own, chemotherapy, while effective at killing cancerous cells, takes the very vitality of the sick person along with it.

All cells die, the cancerous along with the healthy, and the side effects can be profound and include heart arrhythmia, heart muscle changes, and damage to the nervous system, all of which can be permanent.

In far too many outcomes, the patient dies because his or her body gave out, not able to withstand the treatment needed to save it.

Targeted Therapies

Among the most interesting new advancements in treating cancer lies in identifying and spearheading ways to destroy or stop the cellular development of specific cancer types; physicians refer to those treatments as targeted therapies.

For instance, scientists are now learning much more about the molecular structures of cancerous tumors themselves, and in some cases, can offer medications that can slow or stop the growth of tumors or weaken them, making them vulnerable to other cytotoxic drugs.

Adenocarcinoma is one type of cancer that has benefited from the targeted therapy of a class of drugs called COX-2 inhibitors, for one example.

In that strategy, the targeted therapy weakens a cancerous tumor before another treatment can fully eliminate it. (In other more traditional approaches, the surgical removal of a tumor is often followed by a single or a multiple course of chemotherapy and/or radiation.)

Immunotherapy

In other developments, genetic testing in tandem with immunotherapy can give further options depending on the type of cancer involved.

(To date, immunotherapy has been most successful with kidney cancers and melanomas.) Genetic testing can detect certain markers for specific gene mutations, such as IDH2. Such is the case for about 15 percent of people with a rare type of blood cancer called acute myeloid leukemia (AML) or myelodysplastic syndrome.

In those instances, the person with either cancer type can be prescribed an experimental drug called AG-221 that will very likely send their leukemia into remission. (To date, this specific drug has been effective in a high percentage of people who participated in clinical trials both in the United States and in Europe.)

Noted leukemia researcher Stephen D. Nimer, M.D. and Director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami, called the recent discovery of AG-221 “the first real advancement for AML in 30 years and a huge step forward” in the fight against cancer.

Yet another important development in immunotherapy has been the recent discovery of a molecule that helps cancerous cells “hide” from detection by the immune system. By using a new drug that inhibits the ability of the cancer cells to go undetected, scientists will be able to better destroy those lethal cells. Those findings were published just this month in the journal Cell Reports.

Today’s cancer diagnosis can be hopeful; it is no longer a clear-cut death sentence. Life — even a high level of quality life — can be maintained by utilizing any number of treatments and lifestyle changes, including traditional and breakthrough therapies as well as adjunct therapies, such as mind-body techniques, meditation, tai chi, macrobiotic dieting, acupuncture, and so forth.

More and more, a whole-body approach to the fight against disease is what is needed when cancer comes calling.



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