Tuesday, December 25, 2018

FDA approves 31 new therapies in one year

New screenings and treatments are helping to boost the number of cancer survivors in the U.S.

By 2026, some 20.3 million cancer survivors will be living in the United States — up from 15.5 million a decade earlier.

That, according to a recent article in Parade magazine by Sheryl Kraft, is because innovations in screening and treatment are helping patients beat the odds.

"In just one year," the piece reports, "31 new therapies to treat more than 16 types of cancers were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration."

Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society, believes that screening can save lives. "Some estimates say that we can decrease the number of colorectal deaths by 12,000 to 20,000 if screening guidelines were followed."
Dr. Jame Abraham
And Dr. Jame Abraham, director of Cleveland Clinic's Breast Oncology Program, notes that hormone therapy might be all that's necessary to treat 70 percent of women with the most common form of breast cancer. 

"That means a large number of patients can safely avoid chemotherapy," the Parade story quotes her as saying. "We can individualize treatment and make sure we are prescribing the right treatment for the right purpose."

It was tough previously to identify which women with early-stage breast cancer were at risk for recurrence, so many had received unnecessary chemo, radiation and hormonal therapy. But a groundbreaking study known as the TAILORx trial found that many women could be saved from "unnecessary side effects like fatigue, hair loss, nausea, vomiting and anemia," the quote continues.

Another new treatment, immunotherapy, which "works by reprogramming a patient's own immune cells to find and attack those cancer cells through the body," also is being held out as innovative — and the American Society of Clinical Oncology's "advance of the year."

Immunotherapy now is being heralded as "extremely promising for treating triple-negative breast cancer, one of the most difficult-to-treat breast cancers," after having already been shown to have "significant results in young patients with a form of leukemia and adults with multiple myeloma (a type of blood cancer) and lymphoma (a type of cancer involving cells of the immune system)."

Yet another new testing method, CancerSEEK — according to the Parade piece, "a simple blood test, which in its research phase was performed on people already diagnosed with cancer," can identify markers for for tumors containing mutated DNA in the bloodstream. 

These markers are associated with eight common cancer types: breast, lung, colorectal, ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic and esophageal.

Lastly, the story cites a less invasive and faster lung-cancer technique called microcoil localization, "which can pinpoint and remove small bits of affected tissue using a needle inserted through the chest wall to remove the cancer at its earliest stage."

Minimally invasive surgery — instead of the currently popular "lobectomy, which removes a portion of the lung by opening up the chest, followed by radiation and chemotherapy."

More details on new techniques and treatments can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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