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Cancer therapy

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

Traditional treatment:


Surgery is a common way to treat cancer. Once the patient is under anesthesia, surgeons will remove the cancerous tissue along with some healthy tissues for safety. This procedure can cut through skin, muscle, and even bones using scalpels. After the surgery, the wound may be painful and require time to heal. Surgery works best for solid tumors that are concentrated in one area, as it is a local treatment.


Chemotherapy is used to destroy cancer cells with drugs. It prevents cancer cells from

replicating, growing, and dividing. It is a type of systemic medication that travels through the bloodstream to all parts of the body. Because of its nature, it can also damage healthy cells that go through normal cell cycles. This can cause undesirable side effects like nausea and hair loss.


Radiotherapy uses high beams of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors by damaging their DNA. When the DNA is damaged, cancer cells stop dividing or die, and they are then removed from the body. Although cell death doesn’t happen right away, cancer cells treated by radiotherapy continue dying for an extended period of time after the therapy ends. However, there is a limit to the amount of radiation humans can safely receive, so there is a limit to the therapy.

New treatment:

Contact inhibition is the first next-generation cancer therapy we will see. It functions as the cells growth are arrested when they came in contact with each other. Hence, the normal cells will stop proliferating when they form a monolayer. This was controlled using signaling molecules that will bind to the surface of the cells. Hence, the size the tumor of aggregating cancerous cells can be controlled. These signaling molecules are small molecules drugs that are designed and tested in cancer research institutes.

Another more widely-known and better study therapy is targeted immunity therapy. Two functioning molecules in immune therapy are small molecule drugs and monoclonal antibodies, the former being small enough to deal with targets inside cells, the latter are designed to mark to attach to cancer cells so as to stop their growth or to expose them to the immune system There are several mechanisms that this therapy functions:

- Helping our immune system locate and kill cancer cells by marking them.

- Stop cancer cell growth by interrupting the expression and normal functioning of proteins.

- Certain targeted therapies called angiogenesis inhibitors will prevent the blood and nutrient supply to cancer cells, preventing it from getting a sustainable source of material supply.

- Delivering cell-killing substances to the cancer cells.

The concept of cancer vaccines is derived from this therapy.

Other two significant therapies are T-cell Transfer Therapy and Synthetic lethality therapy. T-cell Transfer Therapy is a type of immunotherapy that reinforce the function of own immune system through transferring cells into patients. Our system then starts attacking cancer cells in hopes to eliminate the entire tumor. There are two main types of T-cell transfer therapy: tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (or TIL) therapy and CAR T-cell therapy. The gene for a special receptor that binds to a certain protein on the patient’s cancer cells is added to the immune cells in the laboratory. There are several studies to prove that this new approach is working: According to data provided by the Medical University of Chicago​​, the CAR T-cell therapy success rate is about 30% to 40% for lasting remission, with no additional treatment.

History of cancer therapy:

Cancer has long been one of the most concerning social issues due to its striking fatality particularly when lacking adequate technology to tackle it. Crucial progress in the development of cancer treatment is doctors realizing cancer could be different even though it originates in the same body parts. Given this situation, the therapy of cancer turns attention to attacking specific gene abnormalities, which leads to more individualized treatment. Drugs like Herceptin, Tarceva, and Vemurafenib that target specific molecular abnormalities then arise and are proven to be more effective than traditional chemotherapy.

Here are some major turning points in the history of cancer therapy:

1882: The First Radical Mastectomy to Treat Breast Cancer

William Halsted performs the first radical mastectomy to treat breast cancer. This surgical procedure remained the standard operation for breast cancer until the latter half of the 20th century.

1895: The First X-Ray

Wilhelm Roentgen discovers x-rays. The first x-ray picture is an image of his wife's hand.

1953: The First Complete Cure of a Human Solid Tumor

Roy Hertz and Min Chiu Li achieve the first complete cure of a human solid tumor by chemotherapy when they use the drug methotrexate to treat a patient with choriocarcinoma, a rare cancer of the reproductive tissue that mainly affects women.

(Roy Hertz, M.D., and Min C. Li, Ph.D., discovered the first significant treatment for solid cancer tumors.)

1979: The TP53 Gene

The TP53 gene (also called p53), the most commonly mutated gene in human cancer, is discovered. It is a tumor suppressor gene, meaning its protein product (p53 protein) helps control cell proliferation and suppress tumor growth.

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