5 Exciting Innovations in Cancer Screening and Treatment

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This year, about 1.7 million people will hear the words, “You have cancer.” Yet more and more are surviving: In 2016, there were 15.5 million cancer survivors in the U.S., and that number is expected to rise to 20.3 million by 2026.

“We continue to discover so many new things every day,” says Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society. In just one year, 31 new therapies to treat more than 16 types of cancers were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Related: Cancer Stages: What You Need to Know 

One thing that’s not new: Screening saves lives. “Some estimates say that we can decrease the number of colorectal deaths by 12,000 to 20,000 if screening guidelines were followed,” Brawley says. 

Here are some of the most exciting advances in cancer happening today.

Personalized Care for Breast Cancer

In the past it was tough to identify which women with early-stage breast cancer were at risk for recurrence. As a result, many received unnecessary chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal therapy. Now, results from a groundbreaking study, known as the TAILORx trial, found that hormone therapy might be all that is necessary to treat 70 percent of women with the most common form of breast cancer, saving women unnecessary side effects like fatigue, hair loss, nausea, vomiting and anemia. 

Related: Surprising News About Early-Stage Breast Cancer

“This means a large number of patients can safely avoid chemotherapy,” says Jame Abraham, M.D., director of Cleveland Clinic’s Breast Oncology Program. “We can really individualize treatment and make sure we are prescribing the right treatment for the right purpose.”

The Latest Innovative Treatment

Cancer is traditionally treated with one or more therapies: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. That is until recently, when immunotherapy joined the tool kit. “This treatment is distinct and completely different from the other three,” says Timothy Rebbeck, Ph.D., professor at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. 

Cancer cells grow because they’re able to stay hidden from your immune system. Immunotherapy, a type of biological therapy, works by reprogramming a patient’s own immune cells to find and attack those cancer cells throughout the body, and has been heralded as the “Advance of the Year” by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). So far, it’s had significant results in young patients with a form of leukemia and adults with multiple myeloma (a type of blood cancer) and lymphoma (a type of cancer involving cells of the immune system) and is extremely promising for treating triple-negative breast cancer, one of the most difficult-to-treat breast cancers. 

A Blood Test to Diagnose Cancer

When tumors develop, they release tiny fragments of substances containing mutated DNA and proteins (known as “tumor markers”) into the bloodstream. A simple blood test, which in its research phase was performed on people already diagnosed with cancer, can identify tumor markers associated with eight common cancer types (five of which currently have no screening test), including breast, lung, colorectal, ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic and esophageal cancers. 

Related: Most Americans Don’t Know Exercise Decreases Cancer Risk

“The test has become so fine-tuned that it can identify specifically which part of your body these cells are coming from,” says oncologist Larry Norton, M.D., medical director of the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The Johns Hopkins researchers who pioneered this test, called CancerSEEK, hope that this will soon be a quick and easy way to detect cancer in its early stages, when it is usually more successfully treated.

A Minimally Invasive Way to Remove Lung Cancer

Treatment for early-stage lung cancer usually involves a lobectomy, which removes a portion of the lung by opening up the chest, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Doctors at Cleveland Clinic and a small number of other medical centers in the U.S. are striving to make the process faster and less invasive with a new technique called microcoil localization, which can pinpoint and remove small bits of affected tissue using a needle inserted through the chest wall to remove the cancer at its earliest stage. 

Minimally invasive surgery results in less pain, shorter hospital stays and less scarring and possible injury to surrounding tissues. 

Taking a Watch-and-Wait Approach

Learning they have cancer can make most people want to take the traditional  “slash, poison and burn” approach using surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. But sometimes waiting makes more sense, since some cancers may never grow and pose a problem. This conservative management approach might be especially valuable for many types of prostate cancers, says Brawley. “There are a large number of men who are diagnosed but don’t need treatment, which can cause unpleasant side effects like impotence and incontinence. What goes into our decision today is radically different than it was ten years ago.” Similar approaches may also apply to other early-stage, slow-growing tumor types including thyroid, breast (DCIS), and certain types of blood cancers, research finds.

Source : https://parade.com/707583/sherylkraft/5-exciting-innovations-in-cancer-screening-and-treatment/