How Technology is Redefining the Fight against Cancer
Cancer treatment is a major challenge of the 21st Century. Over the last couple of decades, cancer knowledge has greatly improved. This knowledge has revealed the variance between different cancer types and patients diagnosed with the same cancer type.
Clearly, cancer won’t have a single “cure.” Every cancer patient is treated based on their unique needs. Various therapies are necessary for personalized medicine to become real enough to cover the different types of cancer.
New techniques are being developed to tame the immune system in the fight against cancer. The approaches are bringing the world closer to finding a cure for cancer, making it treatable.
Ranging from cell therapy to microbiome treatments, this article covers four major technologies redefining cancer treatment.
There’s an increase in new technologies focused on boosting the immune system to assist it discover and attack cancerous tumors. This field is known as immune-oncology.
The technologies have the potential to redefine how cancer is treated, bringing the world closer to getting a “cure” for cancer. Here’re a few technologies to consider:
3 New Technologies Helping Revamp How cancer is Treated
Genetic mutations alter healthy cells into tumors that transform into cancer. The focus of new cancer therapies is mutations. However, they vary from tumor to tumor.
Mutations occur randomly, with tumors differing among patients diagnosed with same cancer.
BioNTech, an immune-oncology firm, is developing therapeutic vaccines targeted at specific tumors. The products are customized for each patient.
The company compares the DNA sequences of healthy cells and tumors to identify multiple mutations of cancer. It then picks the cells with the potential to trigger a strong immune system reaction.
Messenger RNA is used to administer vaccines. The RNA molecule is responsible for instructing cells to develop a specific protein, a cancer antigen, to empower the immune system to fight cancerous tumors.
The vaccines, unlike gene editing, don’t edit the DNA of humans directly, but gives it the instructional message. Moreover, messenger RNA generation is more cost-effective than productions in cell therapy, among other new technologies for treating cancer.
Early clinical trial results indicate that personalized vaccines by Genentech and BioNTech are promising to find a cure for cancer. The technology is likely to enter the market in the early 2020s.
However, the firm is yet to create a manufacturing system for the reliable production of different vaccine products customized for specific patients. Healthcare facilities only use reliable products even if they’re the most effective worldwide.
The personalized vaccines could specifically be used for certain cancer types that present high mutations, such as bowel and lung cancer.
Other technologies such as CAR-T therapy are ideal for cancers with low mutation numbers such as prostate or ovarian cancer. This makes CAR-T therapy the most ideal form of treatment technology for cancer patients.
The first cell therapy for cancer treatment was approved in 2018. Dubbed CAR-T cell therapy, the technology involves obtaining immune T-cells from cancer patients. The T-cells are then engineered genetically to target a particular cancer antigen.
CAR-T involves the development of targeted treatments for particular cancer cells, hence redefining the paradigm of treating cancer.
The aim of CAR-T developers is to create accurate, targeted cancer treatments with the power to eliminate disease without impairing healthy body tissues. In turn, it enhances patients’ lives.
Patients with relapse and lack other options for treatment have shown great results when subjected to CAR-T clinical trials. However, some serious effects of the trial have led to the death of patients.
Therefore, it’s important for the CAR-T target antigen not to express on healthy body tissues due to its potency. Otherwise, it can easily wipe out body organs, cause handicap in patients or even kill.
The technology, however, can only treat specific rare blood cancer types. Many other research bodies are working on similar developments to create a new generation of CAR-T treatment with a focus on various cancers.
Celyad, another company working on the same treatment, engineers T-cells to hold a molecule obtained from another immune cell type known as natural killer cells. The cells have the ability to target almost 80% of cancerous cells, increasing treatment efficacies.
The CAR-T approach by Celyad takes advantage of the differences between healthy cells and cancerous cells, to target disease-causing cells. Hopefully, the targeted treatment approaches will lead to the development of more tolerable treatments.
It may also heighten increased cure rates and higher efficacy for patients who lack other treatment options. This is truer for patients with access to limited options for treatment.
Similarly, the technology is expensive, costing six figures. This is attributed to the fact that treatment products are made individually. Each patient’s cells are used in the manufacturing process.
An off-the-shelf version of this technology is being developed and obtained from donors with a basic process of manufacturing.
Although the clinical trials are still in their infancy stages, CAR-T cell therapy is promising.
CRISPR/Cas9 has simplified the process of modifying DNA sequences with great accuracy to redefine gene editing. The medical application of the technology focuses on cancer.
Chinese scientists are utilizing CRISPR gene editing to obtain immune T cells to encode the PD-1 protein. Tumor cells can use the encoded protein to call PD-1 responsible for preventing an immune attack.
Other emerging technologies include CRISPR to improve the technology and related cancer therapies and microbes technology that promises a brighter future.