New cancer developments are announced every year although some areas of research are more promising than others. Immunotherapy, or using the body’s natural defences, is one of the most promising areas of cancer research today. It has already been used to develop several effective treatments. Immunotherapy is one of the main targets of cancer research, but teams of researchers have also developed additional innovative strategies that may one day revolutionise cancer treatment.
The body’s immune system is comprised of cells that work to fight infection. These white blood cells take action when they encounter foreign organisms like viruses and bacteria, but the immune system on its own can’t recognise cancer cells as a threat and attack them.
Immunotherapeutic vaccines work by triggering the immune system to boost its response to cancer cells. One cancer vaccine called Provenge is currently used to treat men with advanced prostate cancer who are not responding to hormone therapy. Similar vaccines for breast, bladder, and lung cancer are still in development.
2. Implantable medication delivery
Researchers are currently working on a new weapon to fight cancer that’s as small as a grain of rice. This tiny implantable device is inserted directly into a tumour. Filled with dozens of chemotherapy medications, the device is capable of dispensing many medications to different areas of the body.
The device, which carries small doses of up to 30 different medications, allows physicians to examine the effects of the drugs in each treated area to save the patient exhausting and painful trial-and-error chemo. It’s already been tested on human melanoma, breast, prostate tumours in mice, and human trials are expected to begin this year.
It’s likely that this treatment method, if effective, will be quickly picked up by private healthcare as cover provider should value its ability to save both time and expense. (According to medical insurer AXA PPP healthcare “not all new cancer drugs are routinely funded” by public healthcare in the UK, while Cancer Research UK states that new treatments “may need specialist equipment and training” that local cancer centres may not always be able to provide.
3. Nanobots to correct cancer-causing mutations
Researchers at the California Institute of Technology are currently working on nanobots, or very tiny robots, that are capable of slipping into cells to correct genetic mutations that lead to cancer. This technology, called RNA interference, is now in phase 1 clinical trials sponsored by a company that makes pharmaceuticals.
4. Nanotube and antibody tumour destruction
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has come up with what may be the most direct means yet of destroying cancer. Researchers combined a nanotube, which goes in to essentially blow up tumour cells, with an antibody, which goes in next to interfere with a protein that works on the sides of the tumour. While the technique worked in a cell culture, it still needs to be tested in animals before it can move to human testing.