It has become clear throughout history that the key to winning the fight against cancer is research. Thanks to continuing successful research more than 50% of people who are diagnosed with cancer will now survive for at least 10 years. In the 1970s this figure was more like 25%. Research is ongoing and this decade cancer research news has brought us some key cancer breakthroughs. We have listed some of the biggest cancer breakthroughs of the decade.
1. 2013 – Prostate Cancer Research News
Prostate cancer is particularly common (70%) in men over 70 and a third of men over the age of 50 will contract the disease to at least a minor extent. 2013 saw a number of big cancer breakthroughs for prostate cancer. The drug abiraterone became available on the NHS and proved particularly effective for men whose cancers had stopped responding to either chemotherapy or hormone therapies. In trials, 2 in 3 patients with advanced prostate cancer experienced tumour shrinkage and a reduction in pain.
In 2013 scientists at the Royal Marsden designed a blood test that could identify aggressive prostate cancers by reading genetic changes. The advantage of this in such a common cancer is the ability to identify patients whose tumours are growing so rapidly that they need immediate treatment.
The Royal Marsden also completed studies that would help to identify men who were genetically more likely to contract prostate cancer. This likelihood was discovered in men who carried the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, both of which can be passed on by female relatives with BRCA type breast or ovarian cancers.
2. 2014 – New Drug Breakthrough for Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is fifth in the list of most common cancers with over 8,000 people in the UK being diagnosed each year. In the years approaching 2014 pancreatic cancer had a low survival rate partly because diagnoses for the disease were typically in its later stages.
Trial data of the drug nab-paclitaxel showed that if it was used alongside the existing drug gemcitabine it could double the survival rates of advanced pancreatic cancer after 2 years.
3. 2015 – The Power of Immunotherapy
Immunotherapies are a powerful way to fight cancer because they make use of the human body’s determined and persistent immune system to destroy cancer cells. In 2015 scientists revealed the exciting results of trials of two particular immunotherapy drugs, ipilimumab and nivolumab. They found that used together these two drugs had 3 times the impact as they did on their own. This impact was discovered in a variety of cancers but was particularly notable in the most common types of lung cancer. It was predicted that immunotherapies would alter the common treatments for cancer and mean that some patients could avoid the distressing and harmful side effects of chemotherapy.
4. 2016 – ‘Good’ versus ‘Bad’ Targets
The main problem with using immunotherapies to treat cancer remains working out which of the molecules that make up the cancer can be targeted most effectively. Without this knowledge immunotherapy cannot be directed where it is most needed and can cause problematic side effects.
The body’s immune system works by spotting antigens (a specific type of protein) on damaged cells and targeting these. This hasn’t always worked so well with cancer cells so a team from the Francis Crick Institute has been looking at the relationship between the types of antigens within a tumour and the tumour’s response to immunotherapy treatment. They have made some key identifications, which will lead to better targeted immunotherapy treatment.
5. 2017 – Prostate Cancer Breakthrough
Recent cancer research news shows that scientists have experienced a breakthrough in prostate cancer treatment that has already shown a reduction in deaths of 40%. Abiraterone has been a controversial drug but recent trials have shown that using it in conjunction with regular hormone therapies can have a very positive effect, on both those with late-stage prostate cancer and those with earlier diagnoses. The usual prognosis for men with prostate cancer that has spread is 3.5 years but trials are showing that with this combination of treatments this can rise to 7 years.
6. 2017 – Gene Therapy Success
A successful study has shown that the use of gene therapy to use the body’s immune system against cancer cells has proved very successful in patients with certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The therapy took immune system cells called T-Cells from the patients’ own bodies, engineered them in the laboratory to recognise cancer cells and then returned them to the patient.
The results have been spectacular, particularly when you realise that these are patients who have already undergone a previous series of failed treatments. A third of the patients were shown to be in complete remission at six months. The Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa are pleased with the results but point out that research still needs to be done into the side-effects of this new treatment.
Thanks to continuing cancer breakthroughs the battle against cancer is advancing but not yet over. Each year cancer research news tells us of a new advancement highlighting the necessity for ongoing and well-funded cancer research.
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