According to the American Cancer Society,
more than a million people in the United States are diagnosed with cancer each year. Dr. Henry
Wang at Methodist Hospital discusses the advancements in cancer treatments in the last 10 years. We have seen tremendous advances in cancer
medicine. Cancer cure really requires multidisciplinary approach including surgery, radiation therapy
and drug therapy. Traditionally drug therapy includes chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.
However now we’re seeing more and more biological therapy that is also called molecular targetting
therapy. With decades of extensive research now we are harvesting the fruits, although
we have not fully understood why some people develop for example breast cancer or lung
cancer. We have identified some gene abnormalities that are important in cancer growth. This
knowledge enables us to develop new therapeutic agents that specifically target this gene
abnormalities and that they are not only very effective but cause much less harm to normal
cells. There are two aspects of gene abnormalities and one is hereditary. Another aspect of gene
abnormalities is acquired gene mutations or rearrangements during the life. Not all cancers
are the same even if they are the same type of cancers and for an example one body’s lung
cancer is probably different from another ones lung cancer. Because of the knowledge
now we have medications that specifically target this gene abnormalities and that the
results are excellent. What is happening now in cancer treatments that could make a difference?
There are around 20 new medications for cancer treatments approved by FDA for the last 2
years and the most of these medications are biologic or molecular targetting drugs. Another
emerging approach is immuno therapy and that was recently approved for the treatment of
metastatic prostate cancer. So basically what it is, is we collect immune cells from the
patients then we educate the cells in the incubators and then we infuse back those educated
cells back to the patients and to let them to attack and destroy the cancer cells. Dr.
Wang discusses the future for cancer treatments. It does not appear that we’ll discover one
single magic pill that will cure everybody just because everybody’s cancer is different.
I’m very confident in the future eventually we will be able to figure out why this particular
individual developed the cancer and whats driving the cancer and so we can block the
driving mechanism and eventually we’ll be able to cure the cancer as we did with infectious
disease decades ago.