FEB 04, 2019 03:49 PM PST

Can Chemotherapy Be Improved?

WRITTEN BY: Amy Loriaux

With all of these "new and improved" methods to treat cancer, such as immunotherapy, nanotechnology, and genetic-based personalized treatment, where does chemotherapy (chemo) stand now? Is it going the way of mercury treatments, or does it still have some use? Are researchers even trying to optimize chemo anymore? Well, it turns out that there are some researchers working on ways to improve chemo, as it is still the first course of treatment for many. A 2015 book published by Expanded Academic ASAP, Future Oncologyincludes a chapter written by Dr. Thomas Mehrling of Mundipharma EDO GmbH, Basel, Switzerland, called "Chemotherapy is getting 'smarter'" details the advancements made in chemotherapy in the last decade.

Photo source: Adobe Shutterstock (with permission)

In this chapter, Dr. Mehrling describes exactly how chemo is getting "smarter". It is doing so by specifically targeting and killing tumor cells without affecting healthy cells. This represents a giant step forward in cancer treatment, with novel chemo drugs being able to tell the difference between tumor cells and normal cells. This is a pretty advanced step from the usual regimen such as CHOP (cyclophosphamide, hydroxydaunomycin, vincristine, and prednisolone) for lymphoma, melphalan-prednisone for multiple myeloma or platinum-based therapy for lung cancer. These were your typical treatment options. Unfortunately, mortality rates remained high.

Previous attempts to tweak chemo treatment included "high dose chemotherapy", where escalating doses of drugs are administered over time to decrease the likelihood of developing drug resistance. However, this method has extremely adverse side effects due to toxicity. In fact, toxicity is the most significant issue in the use of high-dose chemo which could require prolonged hospitalization. Furthermore, and most importantly, this form of chemo treatment has not led to decreases in mortality rates.

Cancer treatment is becoming more and more targeted, chemo included. In recent years, new targeted therapies have emerged, including immunotherapy. The combination of new targeted therapies and existing chemo has resulted in considerable improvement in outcomes. Some clinicians believe that treatment with chemo could become redundant. Nevertheless, scientists followed-up on these improved prognoses and started to develop similar drugs, ones with an improved risk/benefit profile.

Photo source: Pexels.com

So where is chemo now? According to Dr. Mehrling, chemo "now finds itself at crossroads". According to him, chemo is about to evolve, more effectively targeting tumor cells while ignoring healthy cells. There are emerging trends, such as immunotherapy and cytotoxic therapy using nanotechnology. Chemo is now considered as an adjunct therapy and is used primarily for certain cancers that need targeted cytotoxic treatment.

For example, those very highly toxic chemotherapies, too toxic to give alone, could be given at a reduced dose alongside a tumor-specific antibody. This combination treatment has resulted in significantly improved outcomes for patients, especially for Hodgkin's lymphoma. These encouraging results translated into drugs which quickly made their way to the market through accelerated regulatory pathways for potential life-saving therapies.

So, for now, chemo is not going away. Instead, it is being used alongside groundbreaking discoveries and novel treatment methods. Chemo drugs have been used primarily for their overall toxicity. They are great drugs for killing rapidly growing cells. However, historically they killed any fast-growing cells, leading to very harsh side effects. This is Dr. Mehrling's basic point: drugs that can differentiate "good" from "cancer" cells can have tremendous therapeutic potential. These drugs are indeed getting "smarter".

Sources: jmvh.org, www.cancer.orgFuture Oncology, Pharmacy & Therapeutics, Drugs, www.News-Medical.net

About the Author
  • I am passionate about science. My specialties include neuroscience and psychology. I have over 10 years of biomedical neuroscience research at Arizona State University and the University of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center.
You May Also Like
SEP 11, 2018
Cannabis Sciences
SEP 11, 2018
New Evidence Shows Marijuana Smoke is Not the Same as Cigarette Smoke, at Least, in Terms of Lung Disease.
A recent report published in the journal Breathe by scientists in the UK suggests that chronic marijuana smoking may not cause the same deleterious effects...
SEP 12, 2018
Microbiology
SEP 12, 2018
Researchers ID a Link Between a Bacterial Strain and Gastric Cancer
Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium that causes stomach ulcers, and can lead to gastric cancer....
OCT 07, 2018
Videos
OCT 07, 2018
Certain Foods Encourage a Gut Microbe, and Colon Cancer
Researchers reveal more evidence that refined grains and sugars and processed meats are bad for colon health....
DEC 11, 2018
Cancer
DEC 11, 2018
Biosensors developed that can detect cancer's metastatic ability
Researchers in University of California San Diego School of Medicine have developed a biosensor that can detect whether a cancer cell will spread in the future or not, which will help in deve...
DEC 19, 2018
Immunology
DEC 19, 2018
Breast Cancer - Immunotherapy's Nemesis
Researchers find that breast cancer can evade immunotherapy...
JAN 30, 2019
Immunology
JAN 30, 2019
Targeting Transplant Rejection
Bone marrow from a donor contains healthy immune cells whose mission is to protect the body from invaders. Immune cells can target the recipient's cancer cells and offer protection....
Loading Comments...