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Latest cancer research programs and discoveries

Latest cancer research programs and discoveries
By Shanna Hester

TP 202008 FEATURE 01Cancer is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body, which develops when the body's normal control mechanism stops working. The old cells grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells, without dying.


Many research programs have been conducted over the years since the discovery of the disease. Although the experts are making progress, no specific cure has yet been found, making some people worry constantly about getting cancer. Their fear of cancer rises to the level of an overt phobia known as cancerophobia.


Approximately one in three people will be struck by cancer in his or her lifetime. But the other side of that coin is that two out of three people remain unaffected.


However, progress in new cancer treatment methods is accelerating so rapidly that the standard of care for many cancer patients is changing right in front of our eyes. Below are some novel cancer discoveries and solutions made in 2020, as the world comes a few steps closer to finding a treatment for this disease.

TP 202008 FEATURE 02A discovery which may treat many types of cancer
CAR T-cell Immunotherapy


Our immune system is our body's natural defence against infection, but it also attacks cancerous cells. Dramatic advancements in controlling the body鈥檚 immune system to pursue and destroy cancer cells are creating excitement about chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy, a treatment that modifies the patient鈥檚 own cells to fight cancer. This treatment is currently FDA approved for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and large B-cell lymphoma. However, it is predicted that CAR-T will be approved this year for patients with mantle cell lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

TP 202008 FEATURE 03More precision medicine - less chemotherapy


Giving patients a drug based on their molecular profile instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, is showing great promise in treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). While chemotherapy that uses drugs that directly kill cells remains a vital component of many treatment regimens, it is expected that there will be less reliance on these types of drugs as more targeted therapies gain approval.

TP 202008 FEATURE 04More help for children with cancer


Children with acute leukaemia have been treated with the same protocols, developed more than 30 years ago, for a very long time. Harsh chemotherapy combinations leave lasting side effects for most children with ALL who survive with the aid of treatment. Alongside the success of the Beat AML Master Clinical Trial, a precision medicine study for adults with AML, experts are now planning a global precision medicine trial for children with AML. They aim to launch a trial this year to develop new therapies for the 40% of children and young adults who don鈥檛 respond to treatment.

TP 202008 FEATURE 05Making surgery possible for more people with pancreatic cancer


Surgery is generally the best treatment option for people with pancreatic cancer, but sometimes, tumours cannot be removed entirely or at all. However, two studies have shown that more patients may now be able to have surgery if they are treated first with systemic therapies. Both studies used combinations of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to shrink tumours so that they could be removed with surgery.

TP 202008 FEATURE 06Targeted therapy offers additional treatment option for advanced kidney cancer


Surgery to remove a cancerous kidney is often the main treatment for renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer in adults. However, some clinical trials showed that using certain targeted therapy drugs could eliminate the need for surgery and change the way we think about treating metastatic kidney cancer.


In the first study, called CARMENA, researchers compared two treatment plans for cancer that has spread beyond the kidney. The first treatment used a targeted therapy called sunitinib (Sutent) alone. The second treatment plan used surgery followed by sunitinib. (Sunitinib is a type of targeted treatment called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that blocks a protein called VEGF.)


These studies showed that treatment with sunitinib alone was as effective as treatment with surgery followed by sunitinib. In fact, those who received sunitinib alone lived for a median period of 18.4 months compared with 13.9 months for those who received surgery plus sunitinib. The median is the midpoint, and half of the results are on each side of the midpoint.




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