Recent Breakthroughs in the World for Oncology

Feb 14, 2018 by

We have seen a whole slew of new advances in oncology research over the recent years, and we’re making advancements in diagnosis and treatment every day. While some of these breakthroughs are already being used in treatment, some are still in their testing stage. Here are some of the most recent breakthroughs in the world of oncology.

Using the Immune System to Fight Cancer

There has been significant progress made in using the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. In this article published in, a modified measles vaccine used to rally the body to fight multiple myeloma is mentioned. For Stacy Erholtz, this last-ditch effort worked, putting her incurable cancer in remission. It worked though she’d already tried every type of chemotherapy drug and two rounds of stem cell transplants.

They think the other patient in the clinical trial didn’t have the same positive outcome because the dose wasn’t high enough. They learned from the trial that a very high dose is required for it to work, and it only works if the patient doesn’t have an antibody to the virus.

Another approach is CAR-T therapy, short for chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy. This treatment regimen is undergoing larger clinical trials and is likely to be approved by the FDA for the general market.

Predictive Biomarkers Leading the Way in Cancer Treatment

Predictive biomarkers have been found to provide a good prediction of whether or not a patient’s cancer will respond to certain chemotherapy treatments. The biomarkers used are associated with somatic mutations and alterations in the DNA of the circulating tumor cells.

The benefits of this approach are improving the odds that the patient receives the drugs most likely to work and minimizing the odds of side effects. With further research, this could lead to unique molecular targeting agents that would go after the specific mutations in a patient’s form of cancer and wipe it out effectively with few side effects. It could also improve the discovery rate of new therapeutic drugs.

Genetic Therapies Leading to New Drugs

According to the director of MIT’s Center for Biomedical Innovation, more than 600 gene and cell therapies are currently in clinical trials; these advanced biologics are far more complex and specialized than general chemotherapy drugs.

Due to the improvement in the drugs themselves and the FDA’s fast tracking of such drugs, we’re seeing new medications reach human trials or the broader market. For example, Kymriah by Novartis was approved as a treatment for young adults and children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia who don’t respond to traditional treatment or have it return after conventional treatment.

About 20% of all patients will ALL fall into this category. Thus far, the drug has shown significant progress killing the cancer other treatments don’t work on. And several more drugs in this same category are hitting the market each month.

The only issue to date is the price tag – hundreds of thousands of dollars per treatment is not uncommon.

Techniques of predictive genetic testing and immunotherapy should change how we approach cancer treatment in the coming years. Genetic therapies and advanced biologics are also creating new classes of drugs that treat patients for whom conventional treatments failed.

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