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From immunotherapy to Artificial Intelligence: Some recent advances in cancer treatment

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) estimates, India is likely to register over 17 lakh new cancer cases and report over eight lakh deaths by 2020.

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi | Published: October 29, 2019 4:16:03 pm
cancer treatments, cancer research, how to fight cancer,, indianexpress, technology for cancer, immunotherapy, liquid biopsy, While the incidence of cancer has been increasing, the diagnosis and treatment progress has also been tremendous. (Photo: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

While the incidence of cancer has been increasing, we are also making tremendous progress in its diagnosis and treatment. Recent developments have changed the way cancer is treated and brought hope to those diagnosed with this life-threatening disease, remarks Dr P Dattatreya, senior consultant medical oncologist at Omega Hospitals, Hyderabad.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) estimates, India is likely to register over 17 lakh new cancer cases and report over eight lakh deaths by 2020.

Here are some major developments in cancer treatment:


Also known as biologic therapy, this is a type of cancer treatment that boosts the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Immunotherapy has resulted in a dramatic change in cancer management. An example is immune checkpoint inhibitors (a type of drug that blocks certain proteins made by specific immune system cells), which may release the brakes on the body’s immune system, so it can destroy cancer cells. Once the immune system is able to find and respond to cancer, it may be able to slow cancer growth or even stop it. The expansion of immunotherapy continues to gain new insights into how and when these new treatments work best.

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A recent project led by the University of Western Australia and 13 health research organisations along with Telethon Kids Institute has identified key differences in cancer that respond to immunotherapy and those that do not.

Liquid Biopsy

Also referred to as fluid biopsy or fluid phase biopsy, it is the sampling and analysis of non-solid biological tissue, primarily blood. Liquid Biopsy is a revolutionary technique that helps find cancer at an early stage to check how well the treatment is working. Multiple blood samples over a period of time may also help doctors understand the molecular changes taking place in a tumour, explains Dr Dattatreya.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

This is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines. A study conducted by the Institute of Cancer Research, London, shows that AI is able to recognise patterns in breast cancer that are beyond the limit of the human eye. As per Dr Dattatreya, this shows new avenues of treatment among those who have stopped responding to standard hormone therapies.

Multiparametric-Magnetic Resonance Imaging (mp-MRI) and Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLI)

These imaging processes help detect breast cancer. The scan tells the doctor if the patient has proteins that are helping the cancer cells grow, which in turn helps decide the best course of treatment for the patient.

“With a multitude of cancer treatment breakthroughs, along with technological platforms and new approaches to cancer prevention such as screening and imaging, we can hope to achieve better patient outcomes,” notes Dr P Dattatreya.

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