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Innovation

Here’s How Cancer Treatments are Evolving

By January 17, 2022No Comments

Almost 40% of people will receive a cancer diagnosis at some point during their lives, according to the National Cancer Institute. This statistic makes it obvious why governments, universities, and private companies are funding innovations in cancer treatments. Better treatment technologies improve outcomes, come with fewer side effects, and (ideally) only affect cancerous cells. Current treatments consider cancerous tumors as homogenous masses. Newer technologies are being developed with the understanding that tumors are actually heterogeneous, consisting of a “mixed population of cells” with “diverse responsivity to therapies.”

Many recent treatment innovations fall into three categories: personalized medicine, nanomedicine, and artificial intelligence.

Personalized Medicine

Cancer is a very individualized disease, yet current treatments do not treat it as such. Scientists are innovating toward more personalized intervention. This includes mRNA vaccines tailored for a patient’s specific cancer cells. Chronotherapy and immunotherapy work with an individual’s circadian rhythm and immune system, respectively, to maximize impact on cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy cells.

Nanomedicine

More powerful technology allows scientists to treat cancer on a microscopic level. One developing treatment uses magnetic nanoparticles within the body steered to the affected area. Another, similar, technology uses nanoparticles that heat up when exposed to near-infrared light, potentially damaging a cancerous tumor. The National Cryo-Electron Microscopy Facility, funded by the National Cancer Institute, gives more researchers access to high-resolution imagery required for these efforts.

Artificial Intelligence

AI is impacting healthcare in a wide variety of ways, including cancer treatment. Some researchers are using digital twins of cancer patients to identify potential treatments and outcomes—with the help of AI. Other developments, such as ONCOMPASS and Microsoft’s Project InnerEye, use AI models to diagnose and treat cancers more precisely and more quickly.

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