Scientists have published research which could mean new ways of fighting cancer are developed over the next few years to help treat patients, even those whose cancer has spread to different areas of the body.
One of the challenges in treating the disease is that cancers are not made up of identical cells meaning that different parts of the same tumour can behave differently. This means that the cancer is often effective at evading treatment.
Scientists at University College London believe they have developed a way of finding signature molecules in cancer cells that the immune system can spot even if they mutate over and over. These molecules are antigens which can be identified by the immune system and fought.
Although immune cells that battle antigens already exist naturally in our bodies they are often too small in number to be effective. In the future it is hoped that doctors would be able to analyse the genetic profile of a tumour and based on the results engineer a large quantity of special immune cells which could be transferred back into the body to fight the cancer.
Cancer Research UK, who funded this study, have published statistics to say that of those diagnosed with cancer, there is now a 50% chance that the sufferer will now survive 10 years or more. In all cases of cancer the key to a good prognosis is early detection. There is often little that can be done for patients whose cancer has spread throughout the body to areas other than where it originated.
There are many sad cases where symptoms present themselves when the illness is too far advanced for treatments to be effective. There are also instances where a patient’s symptoms may be missed by doctors or the patient may be misdiagnosed. This delay can sometimes mean a lengthier treatment or in some cases can sadly be fatal, especially if the cancer has had the opportunity to spread to different parts of the body.
Although this research demonstrates exciting new advances it is some way off being put into practice. To date, no human trials have been completed and so the true effectiveness of the treatment is yet to be tested. However, it is hoped that this is another step forward in the ongoing battle against cancer.
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