5 breakthroughs in cancer detection and treatment

Cancer treatment and detection has progressed in leaps and bounds since 3000 B.C., when Ancient Egyptians concluded there was no way to treat the disease. Advances have particularly grown over the past couple of decades. Daniel Nader, DO, FCCP, FACP, Chief of Staff at our Tulsa hospital, outlines five recent innovations as the treatments to watch out for.

People have been dealing with cancer for as long as we know. Ancient Egyptians concluded no treatment existed for the disease as far back as 3000 B.C., according to the American Cancer Society, citing information in the Edwin Smith Papyrus, which is a copy of part of an ancient Egyptian textbook on trauma surgery. We have come a long way, making tremendous progress in detecting and treating cancer. Daniel Nader, DO, FCCP, FACP, Chief of Staff at our Tulsa hospital, named these recent innovations as the treatments to watch for:

The Auris™ Monarch™ robotic platform is a new tool in fighting lung cancer. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May. It combines robotics, software, data science and endoscope innovation to help diagnose lung cancer at an early stage with more accuracy and a lower risk of complications. The Monarch robotic bronchoscopic platform was just installed at Cancer Treatment Centers of America© (CTCA), Tulsa, in December 2018, and patients are now scheduled to be treated with it. The technology may allow our physicians to diagnose and eventually treat hard-to-reach, small peripheral nodules with greater precision than ever before.

Liquid biopsy is a dramatic innovation used daily at CTCA® Tulsa. During cancer progression, many tumors shed circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and other biomarkers into the bloodstream. Analyzing CTCs offers the prospect of collecting a liquid biopsy from the patient’s blood to help predict and monitor therapeutic response and tumor recurrence.

Next-generation sequencing to detect circulating tumor DNA is a minimally invasive method for identifying potential therapeutic targets. This may allow patients to take advantage of targeted therapies, which have impressive results in patients with specific genetic mutations or alterations in tumor DNA.

Immunotherapy is an advance in cancer treatment that has resulted in dramatic change in cancer management. One example of immune checkpoint inhibitors is in drugs that may be capable of releasing the brakes on the body’s own immune system, so it can destroy cancer cells. Once the immune system is able to find and respond to the cancer, it may be able to stop or slow cancer growth. Some examples of these drugs include nivolumab (Opdivo®) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda®). These drugs, in combination with chemotherapy or by themselves, have resulted in significantly longer overall survival and progression-free survival for patients than chemotherapy alone, according to an article on squamous non-small-cell lung cancer in the Nov. 22, 2018, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The expansion of immunotherapy continues to yield new insights into how and when these new treatments work best.

Precision medicine continues to shape how we care for patients today and in the future. Discovering a cancer’s genetic make-up, so we can match drugs that target these genetic changes, may take targeted therapy to an entirely new level in the coming decade.

With these types of treatment advances, along with health information technology platforms, new approaches to cancer prevention and screening, as well as a greater emphasis on doctor and patient relationships, we can hope to achieve stunning gains in the near future.

Learn more about immunotherapy.