Technological advances in cancer treatment

Resource people at the Media Presser ‘Understanding Advances in Cancer Treatment and Care’ hosted by the Parkway Cancer Center in Singapore on July 30, 2022. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

CANCER is a dreaded disease and the search for a “panacea” continues to this day. Fortunately, there are treatments that have a good chance of “curing” certain types of cancer, and new developments in cancer treatment are providing a new lifeline for suffering patients from all walks of life. On July 30, the latest advances in cancer treatment and care was the subject of a virtual regional press briefing “Understanding advances in cancer treatment and care”, hosted by the Singapore-based Parkway Cancer Center (PCC). The Virtual Presser seeks to provide a solid understanding of cancer and its treatment modalities so that patients and their loved ones can have a better appreciation of how to treat this once “incurable” deadly condition.

New frontiers in therapy

At the start of the virtual presser, Dr. Ang Peng Tiam, Medical Director and Senior Consultant, Medical Oncology, PCC, told the audience that the treatment of cancer depends on many factors such as the type of cancer, where it is and how advanced it is. is, and that there is no single therapy.

“Every cancer patient is different with different cancer in a different site with different genetics and spread. In this case, we apply patient-centered care,” Tiam said.

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“With doctors and experts working together as professionals, treatment is no longer a new one-man show,” he added. “Thus, new options and new concepts for fighting cancer have emerged. Many doors and windows of opportunity that were once closed have been opened, offering new hope to cancer patients where there was no previously had no hope.”

Tiam pointed out that multidisciplinary care and sub-specialization in oncology is one of the defining changes in cancer treatment over the past 30 years. Others include technological advances in radiological intervention, advances in pathology through immunochemistry and genetic profiling, and new options for treating local disease.

Advances in diagnosis

Cancer diagnosis is an essential part of cancer prevention, treatment and care. Proper screening for cancer early allows the health care provider to offer initial interventions, reduce unnecessary expenses or ineffective treatments, and plan personalized treatments.

Tiam said simple X-rays, CT scans and magnetic resonance imaging are still the first line of diagnostic evaluation. He also explained that the new trend in precision oncology has resulted in new developments in cancer diagnosis.

There is a diagnostic evaluation by positron emission tomography in which a tiny amount of sugar bound to a radioactive substance is injected into the patient. The sugar would then go to where the cancer is and help doctors identify the type of cancer.

Another new development is radiofrequency ablation, an invention of a radiologist where high frequency ultrasound waves are generated to create heat that burns and kills the cancer without the patient having to undergo surgery.

Tiam also said there is ongoing research leading to the development of many therapeutic agents, including cytotoxics, hormone therapy, targeted agents, monoclonal antibodies and immunotherapy that would guide doctors on the best treatment that yields positive results for cancer patients.

Cell therapy

Cell therapy is used to treat blood cancer. It uses the body’s blood cells to hunt and kill infected cells to control the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Dr. Colin Phipps Diong, Senior Consultant, Hematology, PCC, explained: “CAR T-cell therapy is a type of cancer treatment in which a patient’s T-cells, a type of immune cell, are modified in the laboratory so that they bind to cancer. cells and kill them. Cell therapy involves harnessing the power of the T cell that could kill infected cells on their own. Its use has further progressed and is approved in many parts of the world, unlike tumour-infiltrating therapies.

Diong cautioned, however, that CAR T-cell therapy is not for everyone. He advised: “CAR T cell therapy is only approved for B-cell lymphoblastic leukemia and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, and not even for all cases. First-line therapy is always chemotherapy and immunotherapy, although CAR T cells also enter where patients have become chemoresistant.”

proton therapy

It is an advanced cancer therapy that extends the capabilities of the radiation machine. Proton therapy uses the high-powered energy of protons (for example, the positively charged companion of the electron in an atom) to treat cancer and cancerous tumors. It is precise, targeted and specific, so the location of the tumor is a primary consideration in addition to other factors.

It is said that 50% of all CCP cancer patients received some kind of radiation therapy during their trip. Because radiation therapy is a common cancer treatment modality. Not surprisingly, some are concerned about the likely side effects of proton therapy, such as possible adverse effects on healthy cells.

Dr Ivan Tham, Senior Consultant, Radiation Oncology, PCC, pointed out: “Radiation therapy like proton therapy could be used to treat many cancers in the body, but it is important to consult first and make sure that the therapy meets the needs of the patient. patient. Proton therapy could be a powerful tool to deliver the dose precisely where it is needed. As for the side effects, they would also depend on the radiation dose and the age of the patient.

Tham also said proton therapy is not recommended for all cancer cases. Patients eligible for proton therapy have either large tumors or deep tumors as in the case of a brain tumor. On the other hand, this therapy may not be a better option than chemotherapy in cases of cervical cancer, brachytherapy and skin cancer.

The future

During the regional press conference, the resource people were one of them to outline the shape of things to come in advanced cancer treatment and care. This is precision in oncology where physicians are able to profile the molecular genetics of the tumor and identify actionable mutations to be able to provide personalized treatment and care to cancer patients.