The hunt for a true cure for cancer is still underway. While some have given up all hope, researchers have not.
In fact, they are excited about their latest discoveries – and you should be too.
Cancer is the leading cause of death across the world, and for years researchers have meticulously hunted for a cure that will stop the disease before it takes any more lives.
Right now, there are promising therapies that extend a patient’s lifetime, but there is no actual cure – and soon that might change.
Why is Cancer So Difficult to Cure?
Curing cancer is complex because the disease itself is complicated. Finding cancer and diagnosing it is difficult enough but treating it when it can mutate and change its location in the body is an entirely different battle.
The reason scientists have struggled to cure cancer is the complexity of this vast network of similar diseases. There is not just one type of cancer. In fact, there are over 100 different types of cancer ranging from leukemias to carcinomas to AIDS-related cancers.
The cure for cancer most likely will take many forms – with specialized treatments based on the unique factors of that patient.
Right now, the World Health Organization states that one out of six deaths in the world are caused by cancer. The National Cancer Institute estimates that there were over 1.6 billion new cancer diagnoses in 2017 and over 600,000 cancer-related deaths that same year.
Right now, the only treatments (not cures) are chemotherapy, radiotherapy, tumor excision, hormonal therapy, and surgery.
Whether you have cancer, a loved one is diagnosed, or you are feeding your curiosity, you might be surprised just how close the world is to seeing a cure.
How Close are We to a Cure for Cancer? Reasons Why Researchers Say We’re Close
Think there is no hope after a cancer diagnosis?
Researchers have come up with new cure options, and many of these cures are already undergoing human trials. That means you might see a few of these potential cures in your
Here is what you should know about curing cancer – and what the future holds:
1. Treatments Focusing on the Power of the Patient’s Immune System
Therapies exist that treat cancer based on the patient’s specific immune system. These drugs will weaken any restraints presented by the cells of the immune system – the same restrictions that prevent the body from attacking cancer cells.
The treatment uses CAR T-cell therapy, which lets scientists identify the cells that are not doing their job and release them back into the body to do the job right. Some of the results have been promising, and they work well with rare cancers notorious for mutating.
Right now, the National Cancer Institute is creating a treatment that will sequence genes of a patient’s tumor, find the immune cells in the body designed to look for that tumor, and send them to attack it.
One treatment already cured a woman of metastatic breast cancer, and earlier papers state that colon and liver cancer have also seen dramatic results with this new immunotherapy.
Not all patients respond to the treatment; therefore, it might be used to cure some, but not all cancer cases.
2. Therapies to Trigger an Immune Response Grow Further
Another therapy on the horizon is using the patient’s immune system to fight back against cancer. Similar to the T-cell therapy, this method uses drugs that boost immune systems and reduce constraints that limit the capabilities of the immune system.
Some studies have found that immune response therapy works well with melanoma, lung, and kidney cancer. Right now, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is testing immunotherapy, and they have identified reasons why the drugs work, and how they can further improve these medications for more effective treatments.
3. Epigenetic Therapy Could Teach Bad Cells to Be Good Again
Doctors have used poisons, chemicals, and radiation to control cancer. They cut out tumors to remove them, but what if a physician could merely teach a cancer cell to act like other cells and stop harming the body?
Epigenetics is the study of how to turn genes on or off and regulates the cell’s genetic
programming. Instead of destroying these cells through chemotherapy or radiation, scientists want to control them and basically Some types of cancer research looking into epigenetic therapies include sarcoma, leukemia, cervical cancer, and prostate cancer.
4. Blocking Cancer Cell Growth by Focusing on the Gene Behind It
EGFR inhibitors are another potential treatment. This targeted therapy focuses on the mutation in the EGFR gene, which promotes cancer cell growth. Using targeted therapies,
these drugs block out the gene, which stops or slows cancer growth entirely.
According to Genetics Home Reference from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, EGFR’s mutations are associated mostly with lung cancer. Lung cancers with EGFR mutations have responded well to gene therapies that target these overactive mutations.
5. Changing a Cancer Patient’s Diet Could Improve Treatment Success
While drugs and immunotherapy might be the future of cancer cures, one exciting treatment discovered was the use of a high-fat diet or the use of diabetes medications to increase positive responses to targeted cancer drugs.
One study found that the use of these methods might help overcome any treatment resistance.
6. Researchers are Learning More about Metastasis
One reason treatment fails is metastasis. Metastasis is the spread from the initial site to other sites; essentially, the spread of cancer throughout the body.
When metastasis occurs, a patient may develop cancer in other organs, which complicates treatment and often decreases lifespan and treatment success.
Metastatic cancer is highly advanced, and often a grim outlook. However, researchers have focused on metastasis to learn more about why it happens, how it happens, and identifying risk factors for it occurring in patients.
Scientists have found that tumors can take the body’s healthy cells and tissues and force them to spread cancer to others. Now, researchers are looking into therapies that act
on specific blood cells, blocking the progression of those “attack” cells.
One researcher, Joan Massague, states that with this research, the relationship with cancer will eventually turn into the link between infectious diseases and antibiotics – where there is an antibiotic out there to cure most infections.
Soon, she suspects that there will be a drug-based cure for all types of cancer.
7. New Cancer Genome Projects are Underway
The Cancer Genome Atlas, which is the combined efforts of the National Human Genome Research Institute and the National Cancer Institute, has started two new projects: PanCanAtlas and Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes. These projects focus on tumors found in their original research, and scientists will focus on the relationships between various types of cancers.
Genome research, focusing on the structural changes of genomes and tumor cells, may provide scientists with more insight as to how cancers develop, the types of cancers and why they develop, and how to stop them.
Targeted Therapy Likely to be the Cure for Cancer in the Future
While a cure is not here yet, it should be soon.
For years, researchers focused on the cancer itself. Now, they realize that there is a direct
correlation between cancer cells and the body’s immune system. Immunotherapy treatments being tested look promising, and as scientists focus more on turning the body’s immune system against cancer, a cure is likely to emerge.
The National Cancer Institute updates the public on treatment research, including clinical trials underway. While it might seem like the cure for cancer is decades away, following the progress scientists have made shows that the future of a cancer diagnosis is not something that is grim.
Instead, it is likely in a few more years a cancer diagnosis will be taken on the same as a sinus infection.
Receive a prescription, follow the course, and life moves on.