Last month we talked about how important is to have an accurate diagnosis for cancer management and the improvements we are witnessing in this field. Today, we will discuss about the latest advances in cancer treatment and how cancer therapies could change in the coming years.

However, before going on with the most recent milestones in cancer research, it is important to notice that current treatments are already more efficient and accurate than treatments used some years ago. Improvements in radiotherapy equipment have made the radiation shoots very accurate. In fact, nowadays, it is possible to pre-establish the treatment area and focus all the radiation on that site minimizing the damage of surrounding healthy tissue.

Something similar happens with the treatments known as chemotherapy. These treatments are intended to avoid cancer cells renewal. Despite they could act also on healthy cells, causing their well-known side effects, protocols of drugs combination have allowed less painful and more efficient treatments.

On top of that, the implementation of new strategies such as immunotherapy or monoclonal antibodies targeting cancer biomarkers have meant a huge advance in cancer survival but what else can we expect in the near future? On the following lines we are going to introduce three of the most promising advances in cancer treatment:

CAR-T cells.

The human body has a very complex immune system that is able to overcome most of the pathogens and infections we get throughout our life. The approach of CAR-T cells treatments consists in “training” our immune cells in order to make them recognize and attack tumor cells. To do that, immune T cells are isolated from the blood of a cancer patient. These cells undergo a series of modifications in the lab leading to the addition of a Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR). This structure allows T cells to recognize specific parts of tumor cells. The new CAR-T cells grow in the lab and, when a great number of these cells is available, they are infused into the patient. Thereby, CAR-T cells are a way to enhance the activity of our own immune system against cancer. Treatments with CAR-T cells have shown to be very efficient in B cell malignancies, B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, B cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and it is hypothesized that these therapies could also be useful in solid tumors.

CRISPR-CAS

CRISPR–Cas system is an adaptive immune system in prokaryotes that prevents phage infection. This system is based on the inclusion of viral DNA sequences in the chromosomes of bacterias surrounded by Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) sequences. Genes encoding CAS proteins are located close to these CRISPR sequences. The whole system together works as follows: when a new virus infects a bacterium the CAS protein searches sequences of the viral genome in the region in between CRISPR. If the sequences coincide CAS attaches to the viral genome and destroys it. Therefore, the CRISPR-CAS is a very efficient bacteria immune system.

In recent years, this system has been adapted to develop new human treatment tools and has shown promising results for cancer immunotherapy and HIV treatment.

Cancer vaccines

Cancer vaccines could be subclassified as either therapeutic or prophylactic interventions. The first ones are given to healthy people in order to prevent future malignancies, whereas the latest are injected to people already diagnosed of cancer. Therapeutic vaccines target molecules typically expressed by tumor cells. By inserting these molecules in our body, cancer vaccines enhance the power of the immune system to recognize them. On the other hand, prophylactic cancer vaccines have proved to be successful for the primary prevention of some tumor types such as hepatocellular carcinoma secondary to hepatitis B virus and squamous cell carcinoma secondary to human papillomavirus (HPV).

Nevertheless, the success of a treatment depends not only in the efficacy of the treatment but also in how suitable the patient for that therapy is. Hence, deciding which treatment is more adequate for a cancer patient is a crucial part of the diagnosis process. Having platforms that make an accurate diagnosis based on the activity of tumor cells, such as our QF-Pro® diagnosis platform, could help physicians to decide the perfect treatment for each patient.

REFERENCES

National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute

DeMaria PJ, Bilusic M. Cancer Vaccines. Hematol Oncol Clin North Am. 2019 Apr;33(2):199-214. doi: 10.1016/j.hoc.2018.12.001. Epub 2019 Jan 28. PMID: 30832995

Wang Z, Wu Z, Liu Y, Han W. New development in CAR-T cell therapy. J Hematol Oncol. 2017 Feb 21;10(1):53. doi: 10.1186/s13045-017-0423-1. PMID: 28222796; PMCID: PMC5320663.

Nidhi, S., Anand, U., Oleksak, P., Tripathi, P., Lal, J. A., Thomas, G., Kuca, K., & Tripathi, V. (2021). Novel CRISPR-Cas Systems: An Updated Review of the Current Achievements, Applications, and Future Research Perspectives. International journal of molecular sciences, 22(7), 3327.