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Fight against cancer: immunotherapy and early diagnosis

In the World Cancer Research Day we have selected some of the deadliest and what therapies are being implemented. Prevention, early diagnosis and immunotherapy are common denominators and pillars in the fight against cancer. The researchers bet on it, the reasons are weighty.

Pancreatic cancer

The greatest chance of successful treatment is when pancreatic cancer is found early. This is why ongoing research is focused on identifying and using special blood tests, imaging tools, and other approaches to find pancreatic cancer early before it spreads. Many new research advances are based on identifying damaged genes and proteins and repairing them or changing the way they work. Pancreatic tumor samples can be analyzed using various molecular techniques, such as DNA sequencing and mutation analysis, to look for genetic changes. Some of these same tests can now also be performed on blood samples as newer technologies allow the collection and analysis of tumor DNA present in the blood.

A combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, aimed at unleashing the immune system’s anti-cancer power, proved effective against one of the most difficult targets, treating pancreatic cancer, in a national randomized clinical trial led by researchers at Perelman School of Medicine , at the University of Pennsylvania and sponsored by the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.

Colon cancer

Advanced detection methods: Researchers are developing tests to analyze stool samples for genetic changes associated with colorectal cancer. If polyps are found and removed or cancer is found early, doctors have a better chance of curing the disease.

Various genes play important roles in the growth and spread of tumors. Tests to identify these genes can help doctors and patients decide if chemotherapy should be given after treatment.

Immunotherapy: In recent years, researchers have discovered a class of drugs that act on the way tumor cells avoid the immune system. These immunotherapy drugs are called checkpoint inhibitors. Recent research has shown that certain checkpoint inhibitors may be effective against a type of metastatic colorectal cancer with elevated levels of microsatellites.

Lung cancer

Researchers are looking at features of lung tumors that might predict whether a specific drug, such as chemotherapy or targeted therapy, might be effective. To collect this information, patients will increasingly be asked to have additional tests on tumor samples taken when the disease was first diagnosed. In many patients for whom chemotherapy is recommended, not enough tumor tissue is removed during biopsy to diagnose cancer. So they’re looking at changes in genes and proteins that could be new targets for treatment. Promising results in immunotherapy and the recent approval of multiple types of immunotherapy are prompting more research into the use of these types of drugs to help the immune system control the growth of NSCLC (non-small cell lung cancer).

breast cancer

New types of tests are being developed to image the breast. Some are already being used in certain situations, while others are still being studied. It will take time to see if they are as good or better than those used today. Some of these tests include:

  • Scintimamography (molecular images of the breast).
  • Positron emission mammography (PEM).
  • Electrical Impedance Imaging ((EIT).
  • Elastography.
  • New types of optical imaging tests.

Some areas of research related to breast cancer treatment include:

  • Studying shorter courses of radiation therapy for very early breast cancers is as good as the longer courses now commonly used.
  • Trial of different types of radiation therapy, such as proton beam radiation, might be better than standard radiation.
  • Combining certain medications to see if they work better together.
  • Try to find new drugs or combinations of drugs that can help treat breast cancer that has spread to the brain.
  • Trial of different immunotherapy drugs to treat triple negative breast cancer.
  • Giving cancer shots with standard chemotherapy to see if it helps keep the cancer from coming back after treatment.

Sources: Cancer.Net, Asco Knowledge Conquers Cancer, American Cancer Society.

Norys Sánchez is a journalist. He was part of the founding team of Revista Rumbo and Diario Libre. She was editor of the magazine Madre Única. She is the author of the book The Word of Dreams, a selection of interviews with personalities from the political, economic, diplomatic and social world of the country.

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