The turn of the millennium has seen an almost astronomical increase in the prevalence of cancer. Though many propositions have come regarding the possible causes, most diagnosed cases still remain without known causes. The extremely diverse nature of cancer additionally makes it difficult to identify their causes. A general theme with all types of cancerous cells, however, is a loss of the body’s ability to regulate cell growth. The resulting hyperproliferation often results in metastasis and the other symptoms associated with cancers.
The scientific community, expectedly, has been up and doing in the quest to find a cure to this menace. While much progress has been made, the life expectancies of people diagnosed with many types of cancers are still significantly short. It is hoped that major improvements would be made as more inquest into possible causes and cures is conducted. Here are some of the new discoveries in cancer treatment.
Following promising clinical trials involving genetically modified poliovirus as a treatment option against glioblastoma, there has been more research and advancement into the use of virus cells in killing cancerous cells. Research showed that the poliovirus cells are able to selectively target cancerous cells due to their affinity for CD 155 proteins produced by the mutated cells. When introduced into the body, the poliovirus attacked the cancer cells which in turn produce antigens in response to the attack. The antigens produced are recognized by the immune system and an immune response is triggered. The response I further amplified by the body’s innate response to poliovirus. It is hoped that this treatment method would soon be fully developed and made available to the suffering public.
The intravenous drug is a product of extensive research courtesy of scientists at Rafael Pharmaceuticals. It has been proposed as a breakthrough for individuals diagnosed with cancers such as lung, pancreatic and lymphoma; cancers that are famed to be among the deadliest. The mechanism of action is through interfering with the mitochondrial tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, of cancerous cells. The TCA cycle is important in all cells but the higher nutritional requirements of cancerous cells make it even more indispensable. Perhaps, the most promising property of CPI-613 is its ability to selectively target TCA cycles in mutant cells, while leaving normal cells. This gives it an edge over many of the current treatment methods as it comes with fewer side effects.
The FDA gave approval for the drug to be moved into the advanced human testing stage early in 2017. According to the projections of the President of Rafael Pharmaceuticals, the drug could be on the market as early as this year, and many cancer sufferers really can’t wait.
Immune system modulation
The continued failure of conventional chemical molecules to significantly increase the survival rate and life expectancies of most cancer sufferers has led to extensive research involving other targets. Immune modulation is one of the promising fields and drugs like Ipilimumab have been discovered. Immune responses are initiated against cancerous cells as soon as they are discovered and many potential cancers are warded off by the body’s defenses. Cancer arises when mutated cells overpower immune responses or when the mutation is such that the cancerous cells become unrecognizable by the immune system. Ipilimumab works by making the immune system more aggressive towards cancer cells and it is used in metastatic melanoma. The downside of this and other similar drugs is that they do not work when the cells have not already been flagged by the immune system.
Current research into therapies that modulate immune response aim to isolate immune cells that fight cancer and proliferate them in vitro. They can then be introduced into the body in large numbers to fight cancerous cells. This method also offers the possibility of targeted treatments, increasing therapeutic efficacy and reducing side effects. This method is already moving into the stage of human trials and positive results are anticipated.
Approved August 2017, CAR-T Therapy is the first cell-based gene therapy that would be approved such. CAR-T treatment involves extracting T cells from the patient and modifying them to carry a new gene. The modified T-cells are thus better equipped to deal with cancer cells when they are introduced back into the patient. CAR-T therapy is approved for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) n children and young adults. The approval is hoped to pave way for even greater discoveries in the field of gene therapy.
Although some of the treatment options discussed are already in early stages of their use, much research is still needed to further determine their efficacy and side effects profile. Others though are still very much in the Research and Development stage. What holds true for all of them is a promise to change the narrative in the management of various types of cancers and bring succor to the suffering population.