Developments in the diagnostic sector during the past several years have considerably improved our ability to identify cancers in the very early stages of tumor formation. However today, we either use chemotherapy to crush any reproducing cells producing severe side effects; or targeted therapies which show low rates of reaction due to the heterogeneity of the tumour and the poor precision of matching treatments to patients. The cost of new drugs is going up steeply and custom-made drugs cost even more.
Presently, several cancer types cannot be identified early enough, while others are spotted in time, but treated too harshly. This idea requires not only significant healthcare facilities and new diagnosis techniques but also the proactivity of patients. Negotiations and collaborations are launching now to choose which research trends and areas merit the most support. Only disruptive innovations will be able to alter the status quo in cancer, allowing patients to get more individualized and quicker cancer care while letting doctors do their job more effectively. Cancer identification must be speedy and precise.
Let us look at some of the recent trends in cancer diagnostics-
In the course of cancer treatments, re-biopsies are required many times. It means a fresh sample from the ever-changing tumour must be acquired to define the next step of the treatment. With the existing invasive biopsy methods, this is a great task not only for patients but also for caregivers. Fluid biopsy isolates cancer cells from a simple blood sample. As Illumina, the DNA sequencer titan just revealed a spin-off dedicated exclusively to making fluid biopsy commercially feasible, it might be the next big thing in oncology.
An intelligent surgical knife (the iKnife) was created by Zoltan Takats of Imperial College London and operates by utilizing an old technique where an electrical current heats up the tissue to make incisions with negligible blood loss, but with iKnife the vaporized smoke is examined by a mass spectrometer to identify the chemical makeup of the biological sample. This permits real-time detection of malignant tissues.
Understanding genetic and lifestyle causes of diseases
By acquiring knowledge of the genetic and environmental issues that lead to the different kinds of cancers, as well as the patient’s own genetic makeup, it would be possible to detect cancer in its early stages. This requires process innovation in healthcare, as well as more accurate and specialized cancer biomarkers assisted by improved screening techniques.
Next-generation targeted therapies
In the case of AIDS, combining drugs with different targets ensued in the treatment that ultimately put a dent in the disease. Studies show that the same concept applies to cancer as well, but combining the growing number of cancer therapies has so far proven to be problematic due to the sheer number of potential combinations. Innovative methods in the field of systems biology such as the use of computer models to forecast therapy effects are promising to cut through this intricacy and deliver efficient combinational therapies in the coming years.
Molecular cancer diagnostics
Companies like Foundation Medicine are developing personalized treatment strategies based on the genetic structure of the patient’s tumour. They sequence DNA from the patient’s tumor and attempt to match the vital mutations to drugs on the market or clinical trials presently running. Over time, this procedure will grow to be the standard for designating cancer treatment regimes.
Artificial intelligence based therapy design
Even if we can isolate tumour cells from blood and sequence their DNA as quick as possible, making a choice about which treatment method to adopt next is still a struggle. Artificial intelligence algorithms are being utilized in oncology to find the most tailored treatment by examining through all the accessible evidence in minutes.
Doctors are using surgical robots that are capable of carrying out operations with previously unattainable accuracy. By making the robot an expansion of the surgeon’s mind and skills, operating tumors in initial stages, or tumors in tight proximity to sensitive organs might become more achievable than ever.
Embedded, implanted and digestible sensors
In several cases, calculating health parameters at home would be a massive addition to cancer care. Calculating body temperature, for example, is a crucial way to monitor the effects of chemotherapy. What if a sensor on the patient’s skin could continuously calculate body temperature and inform the patient when the fever goes up? Digestible pillcams could be used to implement non-invasive regular examinations on the digestive system at home. Implanted sensors or digital tattoos could observe every important vital sign, initiating an alarm to both the patient and the caregiver, so that interventions can be organized as swiftly as possible. Also, Qloudlab intends to roll out a product that would allow patients to examine White blood cell count at home.
Social media networks
Networking sites such as SmartPatients and Inspire were developed to help patients find and assist each other without geographical restrictions. These patients can debate symptoms, suggest guidance and moral support, and help cope with treatment side-effects like never before. The feeling of community and seeing others cope with the same adversities can improve not just the psychological, but the physical well-being of cancer patients as well.
Cancer and its treatment can cause severe chronic pain, and usually, consigns patients, incessant and increasing dosages of painkillers. Corporations are now creating devices that help ease symptoms and side effects. A good example for this is Quell, a wearable tool with concentrated nerve stimulation that is clinically supported to help reduce chronic pain.
All these technologies show remarkable potential and some of them are already in use. We need to keep on pushing the boundaries to get to a point where the identification of cancer is not a life-altering incident that often brings an unfortunate end to a patient’s life.
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