Cancer, that old enemy of the human species, has been revealing its secrets thanks to the spectacular advances in medicine, but the field of research is still immense. It is caused by the transformation of cells, which proliferate abnormally and uncontrollably, causing some 10 million deaths a year worldwide.
After decades of intensive research, its origins and characteristics are much better understood. For example, it is now known that there is not “one” cancer for an organ, but that it can manifest itself in different ways. And that the same type of cancer can cause different tumors.
Cancer accounted for nearly 10 million deaths, nearly one in six of the global total, in 2020, according to the World Health Organization. But in recent years“The development of molecular technologies has made it possible to better identify which are the abnormal proteins that must be stopped” for each type of tumor, explains the doctor Fabrice André, director of research at the Gustave-Roussy French specialized center.
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In recent years, recent scientific and medical advances have added several new weapons to our arsenal, including personalized gene therapy, artificial intelligence detection, simple blood tests, and possibly soon vaccines.
Steven Le Gouill, head of France’s Curie Institute hospital group, said he was optimistic about the future of cancer treatment. Ideally, “We will combine all of these approaches and new therapies to have a personalized plan for the patient,” he said.
“We have passed a milestone in our understanding of the tumor cell,” he said. “Cancer is still an ordeal, but progress has been made, exponentially.”
Here are some of the promising recent advances in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease:
The medicines of immunotherapy, which stimulate the immune system to track down and kill cancer cells, have been one of the biggest advances in cancer treatment over the past decade. With fewer serious side effects than chemotherapy, immunotherapy has had a profound effect in the treatment of various types of cancer.
Before 2010, the survival rate for people with severe cases of melanoma, skin cancer, was very low. But thanks to immunotherapy drugs, some patients can now live 10 years or more. However, not all tumors respond to immunotherapy, which has its own side effects.
“We are only at the beginning of immunotherapy,” said Bruno Quesnel, director of research at the French National Cancer Institute.
Pierre Saintigny, an oncologist at the Leon Berard cancer center in France, said for his part that it will be necessary to combine different types of immunotherapy treatments “in the most intelligent way possible.” “With immunotherapy, we have gone up a notch in cancer treatment, but action still needs to be taken for all patients who do not benefit from it,” he added.
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CAR-T therapy involves taking T cells from an individual patient’s blood and modifying them in a laboratory.. T cells, which are part of the immune system, are then injected back into the patient, newly trained to attack cancer cells.
Another technique called allogeneic CAR-T involves obtaining the cells from a different, healthy person.
Until now, CAR-T therapies have mainly been effective against some types of leukemia, and the process remains very expensive.
It has been shown that Computer programs using artificial intelligence (AI) identify brain and breast cancer from routine scans more accurately than humans.
With AI research booming in a variety of fields, it is expected to play an increasing role in other ways of diagnosing cancer.
“Thanks to artificial intelligence, we will be able to identify which patients may benefit from shorter treatment,” he said. Fabrice Andre, an oncologist at the Gustave Roussy cancer institute in France.
This would mean fewer side effects for patients and less burden on the healthcare system.
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Liquid biopsy test
Liquid biopsies are capable of detecting cancer in DNA from a simple blood testwhich is easier and less invasive than traditional biopsies that require simple tissue.
Quicker and easier tests would help doctors find and act on cancer before it has a chance to spread.
The new technique is now being used in the United States, “but there are still a lot of false positivesAndre said.
Vaccines to treat cancer
Vaccines have long been available to protect against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer, and hepatitis B, which can cause liver cancer.
But after decades of failed efforts toward a cancer vaccine, now Hopes have risen that pioneering mRNA technology for Covid-19 vaccines could also lead to a breakthrough in cancer.
Vaccines that treat, rather than prevent, cancer are the most promising in development.
In December, drug manufacturers Moderna and Merck announced positive preliminary results from their personalized mRNA vaccine to treat patients with skin cancer.
And last month, German drugmaker BioNTech said 10,000 people in Britain would take part in a trial of an mRNA cancer vaccine that would be tailored to individual tumors.
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