Cancer – How Close Are We To A Cure?

In computer science, there is a concept known as Moore’s Law, which basically states that computing power doubles every 18 months. I would suggest that breakthroughs in medicine seem to reflect this concept.

We often hear in various news media that a breakthrough for this disease or problem is on the horizon, only to be disappointed to find that it is in basic lab work or animal experiments with potential therapies possibly 10-15 years away.

However, to cite three recent examples published in the last month, I believe we are getting closer to a cure for cancer and, in fact, with recent therapies already in clinical use, we are already seeing cures for a variety of various cancers.

The first study I want to highlight involves targeted immunotherapy, known as Dostarlimab, which was conducted only in 12 patients with a particular type of genetic rectal cancer, present in 5% of these cancers. Dostarlimab therapy is known as a checkpoint inhibitor, one of several immunotherapies now used for cancers and a variety of other autoimmune and infectious diseases, including Covid. All 12 patients treated with this therapy after 12 months had no recurrence of rectal cancer, despite the cancer being at an advanced stage.

The second study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences evaluated a particular type of artificial intelligence known as DNA Encoded Chemistry Technology, which can rapidly screen billions of compounds to determine which will be effective as anti-cancer therapies. This particular BD-1 inhibitor has been shown to have potent anti-leukemia activity. This is just one example of how advanced computing power is able to provide fast, accurate answers to determine safe, highly targeted therapies to treat specific diseases.

The third study evaluated the safety and tolerability of an altered smallpox virus known as Vaxxinia, which is effectively a cancer-killing virus. Once injected intravenously or directly into the tumor, the virus enters the cancer-specific receptors that sit on the cell surface, but does not affect normal human cells. The cancer-killing virus then disrupts the cancer cell’s normal machinery to burst the cells open and release more cancer antigens, which then triggers the immune system to kill the cancer cell and clear out any remaining tumors.

This is now being trialled in 100 cancer patients with advanced tumors who have had at least two standard anticancer therapies unsuccessfully. The trial will use Vaxxinia and a checkpoint inhibitor known as Pembrolizumab to determine the success of these therapies.

Until about ten years ago, cancer was treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. These treatments have partial effectiveness and sometimes heal if the cancer can be detected early, but in the last decade medical science has developed many more targeted and personalized therapies, such as the three described above.

With the remarkable success of CAR-T therapy, early detection through liquid biopsies and personalized vaccinations against individual tumors, cancer deaths are likely to become the exception rather than the norm.

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