By Danelle James, M.D., M.A.S.
It’s an incredible time to be a cancer researcher. When I treated patients 10 years ago, so much of what we’re seeing in practice now was a distance promise. Today, those distant promises are the new realities of treatment for patients and that makes me even more excited for the future of cancer treatment. Here’s why:
1. Chemotherapy is Only One Part of the Equation
The emergence of new ways to treat many types of cancer is providing patients and the doctors who treat them with new chemotherapy free and combination treatment options. While chemotherapy has long been the standard treatment for cancer, it has never been an ideal therapy. Its initial effectiveness comes with harsh side effects. Newer, less toxic medicines are now available that achieve positive results over the long-term, an important step in the right direction.
We’re also seeing more potential benefits to combining treatments. Over the years, there have been an increasing number of studies showing that combining certain medicines to treat cancer can achieve better outcomes than either one can alone, offering greater benefit to patients.
2. New Options Exist for Many of the Tough to Treat Cancers
When I began my career as a clinical oncologist, we had an arsenal of cancer drugs that could alleviate the burden of the disease for most and treat some, but were difficult to tolerate for many. Today, continued research and breakthroughs have begun to make it a different world entirely for many patients. We are now seeing therapies that can change outcomes for patients across a wider, rarer spectrum of cancers.
Take certain blood cancers, for instance. The only treatment option for chronic lymphocytic leukemia used to be intravenous chemotherapy, but today it is possible to treat this disease with a chemo-free, oral therapy that can be taken at home, or anywhere. I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to see similar stories across more cancer types, including difficult-to-treat diseases like non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas and many solid tumors.