There have been many strides forward in cancer research in recent years. The American Society of Clinical Oncology believes that researchers will continue making progress in improving the lives of cancer patients. In fact, they now predict that by 2026, there will be 20.3 million cancer survivors, which is a 31 percent increase from the 15 million survivors in 2016. All of the new discoveries made by cancer research institutes will help both people who have been recently diagnosed with cancer and hospice patients who have terminal illnesses. Here is what you need to know about the state of cancer research in 2017.
Scientists are hard at work developing new types of immunotherapies for cancer patients. Immunotherapy is a type of biological therapy where substances are used to either stimulate or suppress the immune system to help a patient’s body fight cancer.
In 2017, researchers will begin seeing their immunotherapy research come to fruition. In recent years, researchers have learned more about the signals that tumors send out to prevent patients’ immune systems from fighting cancer cells. Now, researchers are using that knowledge to create inhibitors that prevent cancer cells from sending out these signals. Throughout 2017, researchers believe that there will be inhibitors approved for a wide variety of cancer types.
Researchers have also created the first new treatment for bladder cancer in almost three decades. This treatment is a type of immunotherapy called atezolizumab. In clinical trials for this drug, researchers found that patients who used atezolizumab lived longer than those who received chemotherapy. Plus, tumors shrunk in 24 percent of the patients who used atezolizumab.
Precision Medicine Advances
Scientists also predict that there will be many advances in precision medicine in 2017. In precision medicine therapy, patients are given unique treatments based on their individual cancers. In 2017, researchers expect to begin seeing precise, molecularly targeted therapies. There will also be new clinical trials that test complementary drug combinations. These new discoveries will all help scientists create new treatments that target patients’ specific types of cancer.
New Tool for Researching Cancer Drug Combinations
Researchers are always on the lookout for combinations of cancer drugs that will work together to help patients. Researchers believe that these combinations are vital for helping patients who develop a resistance to drugs used in their treatment. Now, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has put together a new and easy-to-use resource that will help researchers discover what therapy combinations work well together. This resource is called the NCI Almanac.
The database has already proven to be effective. NCI used the database to identify a few different drug combinations that had never been tested on humans before. Researchers believe these combinations will have a powerful cancer-cell killing effect. Discoveries like this show why this tool will be vital for researchers who are putting together treatment plans for cancer patients.
New Therapy May Target Tumors in Two Different Ways
Researchers have begun working on a potential new therapy that could target tumors in two different ways. This therapy will focus on the protein TNFR2. This protein is found at an elevated level in many tumor cells. It’s also found in some types of T-cells—harmful cells that stop cancer patients’ immune system from attacking tumors. Scientists believe that targeting TNFR2 will kill two birds with one stone. By focusing on this protein, they’ll be able to both kill tumor cells and boost cancer patients’ autoimmune responses.
Researchers are hard at work developing their antagonistic TNFR2 antibodies. These antibodies will latch onto TNFR2 receptors on T-cells and force the receptors into an inactive state. This will prevent the harmful T-cells from multiplying. The antibodies also selectively target the bad T-cells. This means that the antibodies are less toxic than other types of immune checkpoint inhibitors.
New Therapies and Treatments Approved by the FDA
The FDA approved a wide variety of new therapies and treatments in 2016, including the first liquid biopsy test. This test detects genetic abnormalities and gene mutations in patients who have non-metastatic small-cell lung cancer. This test is very useful for detecting gene mutations in patients who are too sick to have a biopsy.
The FDA also gave its first approval for a new next-generation sequencing test. This test will help determine if patients with ovarian cancer are eligible for a treatment called rucaparib.
In addition, the FDA approved five new types of drugs and biologics for cancer treatment. These drugs will help patients with ovarian cancer, leukemia, soft tissue sarcoma, renal cell carcinoma, and urothelial carcinoma.
Improvements in Survival
The progress made in cancer research has led to meaningful improvements in survival. Many clinical trials with new drugs are yielding great results. In one long-term phase 1 clinical trial, patients with metastatic melanoma were treated with a drug called nivolumab. When researchers followed up with the patients, they found that 34 percent were still alive after five years, which was a much higher percent than in previous trials.
Researchers have also found success with other drug clinical trials. When researchers followed up with patients who had been treated with the drug pembrolizumab, they found that 40 percent of patients were still alive after three years. These results show how important clinical trials are to advancing cancer research and improving cancer survival rates.
Hospice Care for Cancer Patients
There have been many new and promising developments in cancer research in the past few years. In 2017, the FDA has approved new treatments that may soon be used to help patients with cancer. Scientists have also created new research tools, and they have developed therapies that will help patients with tumors. All of these discoveries are very positive and show how much progress is being made with cancer research.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with cancer and need help with the Activities of Daily Living, please contact us at Harbor Light Hospice. We’ll help you put together a hospice care plan that will meet your unique needs.