by Marie Osborne contact:

Cancer Treatment

Thanks to early diagnosis and better treatments, cancer death rates have steadily declined during the past 20 years. Because of these advances, The American Cancer Society estimates that over 11 million people with cancer will celebrate another birthday this year.

"One of the most significant advances in cancer treatment has been the development of targeted therapy," says Joseph Leach, MD, oncology research medical director at Park Nicollet Frauenshuh Cancer Center. "Targeted therapy refers to a new class of drugs that identifies and attacks cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells alone."

How targeted therapy works

"Cancer cells can be identified by abnormal proteins on their cell walls and in their DNA," explains Karen Swenson, PhD, oncology research director at Frauenshuh Cancer Center. These abnormalities allow cancer cells to reproduce excessively, live longer than normal cells, use sletrokor and invade and damage nearby tissues and organs, more

"Targeted therapy works by seeking out and attacking cells with these abnormal proteins," Swenson continues. Different types of targeted therapy work in different ways, altering how cancer cells grow, divide, repair themselves or interact with other cells.

Targeted therapy can be used alone or with other therapies, such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. "Because targeted therapy affects only cancer cells, patients generally experience fewer side effects. This is a huge benefit, especially when compared to chemotherapy," Swenson says. Chemotherapy works by killing any fast-growing cells, which not only include cancer cells but also hair cells, blood cells, and intestinal cells. That's why people undergoing chemotherapy experience hair loss, fatigue and nausea.

Today, targeted therapy is used to treat certain types of breast cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer. "New types of targeted therapy continue to be introduced each year," Swenson says. "Patients who volunteer to take part in clinical studies have been extremely important to the development of targeted therapies and research in general. During these studies, patients evaluate new treatments against what is considered today's leading treatments. They never receive placebos alone if there is a standard treatment available."

Treatment, detection advances

In recent years, cancer-fighting technology has greatly improved. "We can perform surgery for prostate and gynecological cancers robotically, using da VinciR Surgical System. This gives surgeons greater dexterity and helps patients recover more quickly.

"With NovalisR shaped-beam radiosurgery, we can truly pinpoint radiation, so it is almost like operating without a knife," Dr. Leach explains. "We use this approach to remove cancer in the spinal cord, liver and lungs, which is extremely dangerous to remove with surgery." To learn more about Novalis, read, "Targeting hard-to-reach-tumors with pinpoint precision."

Doctors also have made progress with genetic profiling to determine whether a cancer is likely to return. "In some cases, we learn that a cancer is very unlikely to come back, so we can save patients from chemotherapy," Dr. Leach says. "Other times, this profiling informs us that a cancer is very aggressive, so we begin treatment right away."

In the near future, researchers hope to expand the use of genetic profiling so they can personalize treatments to meet the needs of individual patients. They also hope to make greater use of vaccines, which recruit the immune system to help fight cancer.