The treatment of some tumors is undergoing a true revolution in the last decade
Cancer is one of the most widespread diseases on the planet. Luckily, there are more and more advances to treat it.
Every year, doctors from around the world meet in Chicago (USA) to share what’s new in diagnosis and treatment. At this year’s meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the latest advances presented give a little more hope and, according to experts, represent a change of perspective to combat some types of tumors.
breast cancer: a medicine that benefits a greater number of people
Trastuzumab, an intravenous treatment, has been used to treat breast cancer for decades.
It works well, but it has a limitation: it can only be prescribed to patients who have a gene called HER2. A new compound, trastuzumab deruxtecan, may change that.
“We are seeing the arrival of a revolutionary drug,” says oncologist Romualdo Barroso, research coordinator at the Syrian-Lebanese Hospital in Brasilia.
On the one hand, trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody that, in the case of breast cancer, binds to receptors found on the surface of cancer cells. This “calls the attention” of the immune system, which sees cancer as a threat and begins to fight it.
The second effect is done by deruxtecan, which “invades” the diseased cells. This chemotherapy drug destroys the tumor from the inside out. The novelty is not only how it works, but that it works well even with patients who have the less developed HER2 gene. Almost 7 out of 10 patients can benefit from it, estimates Barroso.
rectal cancer: medicine with surprising results (even for doctors)
Imagine a drug that makes a disease disappear in all the patients with whom the preliminary study has been done to see if it works or not.
This is what has happened with the trial of dostarlimab for the treatment of rectal cancer. This drug, which is already used for other tumors, stimulates the immune system to attack them.
Twelve patients were treated in the trial and followed up for 6 months. At completion, none had any evidence of a tumor in the body. This prevented them from moving on to more aggressive treatments, such as surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
“Even for doctors it is very surprising,” says oncologist Rachel Riechelmann, director of the Department of Clinical Oncology at AC Camargo Cancer Center, in São Paulo.
Colorectal cancer: the test that avoids unnecessary chemotherapy
Another novelty of the congress was presented by a team of researchers from Australia and seeks to reduce the number of interventions that a patient must undergo.
They have delved into a method known as “liquid biopsy”, where fragments of tumor DNA that can appear in the bloodstream are detected.
Colorectal cancer patients often undergo surgery to remove the affected part of the intestine. After recovery, many undergo chemotherapy to eliminate possible remnants of tumor cells.
This limits relapses, but being an intense therapy it can have side effects.
With the “liquid biopsy” it could be more easily determined if this chemotherapy is needed or not.
With the study, which was carried out with 455 volunteers, “it was possible to halve the application of chemotherapy and obtain the same patient survival result,” says oncologist Rodrigo Dienstmann, medical director of Oncoclinics Precision Medicine, in São Paulo. .
“The liquid biopsy has a revolutionary potential”, analyzes the doctor.