New discoveries and treatments have transformed the way doctors approach cancer treatment.
With President Jimmy Carter’s seemingly miraculous recovery from a metastatic melanoma that had spread to his brain after treatment with a newly approved drug, it’s tempting to hope that medical science is finally winning the battle against this so-called “emperor of all maladies.”
So what is the state of current medical research and treatment for the many varieties of cancer that plague us?
Steven Davidsen, vice president of oncology discovery at AbbVie, has specialized in cancer research for the past 20 years. He says that while surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are still largely used in cancer treatment today, there’s been significant progress since he’s studied cancer.
“It’s actually a pretty amazing evolution,” Davidsen said. “Historically we have treated cancer by way of slash, burn and poison – that is surgery, radiation and non-specific chemotherapy. What we have tried to do in stepping forward from that history is to try to distinguish characteristics between cancer cells and normal cells and come up with agents that are more selective or more targeted to those differences.”
One treatment being studied involves using the body’s immune system to target cancer. Davidsen said in the last 10 years, researchers have been getting excited about this kind of treatment, which a New York surgeon first got clues about in the 1890s. Three immuno-oncology agents have been approved, with more on the way.
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