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Viable new cancer treatment options are emerging

The incidence of cancer in Hong Kong has continued to rise by 2 to 3 percent a year, with the number of new diagnosed cases reaching a new high of 29,618 in 2014.

The top five types of cancer in descending order involve the large bowel, lung, breast, liver and prostate.

Cancer has been established as a genetic disease due to alterations in the DNA codes in cancer cells, enabling them to divide relentlessly, invading and destroying surrounding structures or organs, and spreading to other parts of the body. It took 13 years for an international global consortium of seven countries to sequence three billion letters of the human genome completed in 2003.

With the next generation today of DNA sequencing technologies, the same work can be accomplished in just a few days at a much lower cost. Analysis of the massive amount of generated data will shed light on the genetic defects of cancer cells. Based on the defects of cancer cells, we can have a more personalized approach to treatment selection instead of giving the same treatment to all patients with a particular broad cancer type.

Deeper understanding of cancer biology is propelling rapid development of novel treatments, targeting the key molecules that allow cancers to grow and spread.

This strategy has resulted in exciting new targeted therapies for people with advanced cancers of the lung, breast, kidney and gastrointestinal tract, as well as several hard-to-treat forms of blood cancer.

It has been found that the evasion of the tumor cells from immune surveillance was partly through suppression of immune cells by some established regulatory mechanisms (immune checkpoints), such as program death- 1 and CTLA-4.

Immunotherapy can restore immunity to cancer cells and is now a standard treatment option for a growing number of cancers. The Food and Drug Administration has already approved immunotherapy drugs for advanced forms of lung, kidney, bladder, melanoma, head and neck cancers, as well as Hodgkin lymphoma. This just marks initial success and we are just at the dawn of a whole new era of exciting developments.

Obtaining cancer cells for tests is invasive and not often easy, particularly if the cancer is located in sensitive areas, such as the brain or bone.

Today, highly-sensitive molecular technologies can quickly pinpoint tiny changes in the free-floating cancer DNA in the blood or other body fluids.

These genetic changes in cancer cells can be matched to targeted treatments, opening up viable new treatment options for a wide range of cancer types.

Dr Au Siu-kie is a specialist in clinical oncology at the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital – Stubbs Road and Tsuen Wan

Source from The Standard:?Viable new cancer treatment options are emerging

Dr. Au Siu Kei

SPECIALIST IN CLINICAL ONCOLOGY
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