It is sometimes said that after a researcher has studied one cancer patient, he or she is left with the understanding of exactly one cancer patient. No two cancers are alike, and scientists recognize that each patient’s experience is impacted by a variety of unique factors. In fact, the condition broadly referred to as “cancer” is in fact a group of hundreds of different diseases.
The rapid pace of scientific advances has helped usher in a new era of medicine for cancer patients over the last decade.
Research into the underlying biological mechanisms that lead to cancer cell growth has created promising new avenues for treatment. Additionally, an understanding of the role of the body’s immune system in fighting cancer has yielded some of the most exciting new advances, resulting in a new wave of immunotherapies specifically targeting cancers.
Today, 1,120 medicines and vaccines for cancer are currently in development by America’s biopharmaceutical companies, all of which are in clinical trials or awaiting review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This includes 137 potential treatments for leukemia, 135 for lymphoma, 132 for lung cancer, 108 for breast cancer, and hundreds of others for brain, skin, prostate, childhood and other types of cancers.
Many of these medicines use novel approaches to attack the deadly disease. Some examples include:
Adoptive Cell Therapy: By genetically altering and boosting special immune cells of patients suffering from certain forms of cancer, those cells – often referred to as a “living drug” – may serve to eliminate the disease. One example is chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy (CAR-T), which in 2017 saw the first FDA approval for certain pediatric and young adult patients with a form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Oncolytic Virus Therapy: This first-of-its-kind treatment is a genetically modified virus that, when injected directly into a cancerous lesion, replicates inside cancer cells and causes them to rupture.
Vaccines: Cancer vaccines can be either preventive, which are intended to prevent cancer from developing in healthy people, or therapeutic, which are meant to treat cancer by strengthening the body’s natural immune response against the cancer.
While we are at a time of remarkable change in cancer care, and new drug approvals over the past several years represent significant advances for many patients across many types of cancer, we are just beginning to understand the true power of new cancer treatments, including immuno-oncology and personalized medicines, to help patients.
We excitedly look forward to what innovation has in store.
Learn more about the more than 1,100 medicines in development to treat cancer.