Hearing about a cancer diagnosis is a life-altering event. Your ears start ringing and your eyes won’t focus. It’s hard to concentrate on what the doctor is saying, because the word “cancer” is echoing through your head, your hands are shaking and you grow cold all over. Make no mistake—it’s a scary diagnosis. But incredible advances in cancer research and new cancer treatments mean cancer no longer wins every battle. Here’s a look at some of the exciting developments in the increasingly effective arsenal of cancer treatments.
Targeted cancer therapies are drugs that primarily attack cancer cells, leaving the rest of the body’s cells unharmed. Unlike traditional chemo which attacks all types of cells throughout the body, targeted therapies specifically go after gene mutations or cancer proteins to choke off the cancer and prevent it from growing or spreading. Targeted therapies include hormone therapies that prevent or block cancer reproduction, apoptosis (cell death) inducers and toxin delivery molecules among others. Targeted therapies may be used alone or in conjunction with traditional cancer treatments such as chemo, radiation and surgery.
Precision medicine is also known as personalized treatment. Before deciding on a course of treatment, doctors examine the genetic profile of the patient’s tumor to determine if it will respond well to certain therapies. Knowing the genetic profile may allow the doctor to prescribe the most effective medicines for treatment, or to spare the patient from the rigors of treatments that are not likely to be effective against the specific tumor.
A great deal of current cancer research is focused on precision medicine cancer treatments, but not all cancers have effective targeted drugs yet. If a specific type of cancer doesn’t have a targeted drug available or in clinical trial, it is unlikely that your doctor will recommend genetic testing.
Stem Cell Transplants
Stem cell transplants are used to replace bone marrow destroyed by cancer treatment, enabling the patient to recover faster from the ravages of other cancer treatments.
Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses living cells to fight cancer. These cells beef up the immune system, helping the patient to fight off the spread of cancer in ways similar to fighting off other illnesses. Some immunotherapy cancer treatments “mark” cancer cells so targeted therapies can more easily find them and destroy the cells or impair their ability to reproduce.
Cancer research continues to uncover new therapies for finding and destroying cancer. Nanotechnology, for example, uses tiny—microscopic—machines to find, diagnose and treat cancers or improve the effectivity of traditional cancer treatments. Precision medicines and targeted therapies are also key areas of continued research. Every day, cancer research helps us get closer to effective treatments for more types of cancer so that someday, a cancer diagnosis will not be such a blow.
Supporting Cancer Research
Choose Hope is proud to support cancer research. To date, we have donated over $950,000 to cancer research facilities nationwide. We always make sure our money goes directly to general cancer research so that every cancer gets a portion of our donations.