When people think about cancer, they imagine it to be a dreadful diagnosis where the patient’s chance of survival is 50-50. But in recent years, oncologists have learned that cancers happen all the time in the body, and the immune system is just usually able to fix the problem before it becomes overwhelming.
Some cancers grow slowly and do not cause any problem, but others become more aggressive and require immediate treatment.
There are many reasons why cancer mortality has decreased as both prevention and treatment have drastically improved as oncologists have a much better understanding of why people get cancer. But a big part of that decrease in mortality as fewer people are getting tobacco-related cancers.
During the 1950s, scientists assumed that smoking was more likely to cause cancer and urged people to stop smoking. There is a lot of misinformation surrounding some aspects of prevention like: does drinking lots of coffee increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer or decrease it?
As cancer was not properly understood in the late 90s, they used a lot of resources for treating cancer. Doctors would give patients chemotherapy in the hope of killing enough cells in their bodies so that cancer could no longer survive.
But a lot of research has led to sophisticated treatments, and a whole new chapter of it is beginning now. Scientists are figuring out how to harness the immune system to fight cancer from within that is known as immunotherapy.
They are using immunotherapy by understanding the genetic drivers behind potentially life-threatening cancers, along with cheaper genetic sequencing. Now the doctors may use treatments that will target the mutation, which is known as personalized medicine.
In personalized medicine, patients have a particular mutational profile that might be used for direct cancer treatment. But it is more complicated than what one would think. Tumors have several mutations that drive them, and sometimes even when it can be pinpointed, there aren’t many drugs that target them.
The clinical trial system is designed to test treatments for the location of cancer and not specific mutations that drive them, and finally, oncologists can understand the disease better.
With proper knowledge of how the cancer forms and how they can be treated, the doctors are finding new ways to talk to patients about their cancer risks. Patients will know what stage they are in and can discuss about the preventive measures with their doctors beforehand
As scientist gain more data from cancer patients, they will have a better grasp of how the mutations interact with one another to make cancer more or less aggressive, and will also be able to develop treatments which target several of them at once.
Researchers say that immunotherapy is the next big thing in cancer treatment.
the original article was published in Popular Science