Treating Cancer-The Gene Way

by Dr. Enozia Vakil on  January 5, 2013 at 11:33 AM Health In Focus
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Claiming around 5 million lives worldwide each year, cancer is the second most life-threatening disease after cardiovascular ailments. Though medical innovations and technology have made enormous advancement and cancer is now curable, the best is yet to come.
Treating Cancer-The Gene Way
Treating Cancer-The Gene Way

Cancer tumors start with one particular cell in the body going rogue due to one or more mutations. These mutations help the cell divide indefinitely or stop the immune response from destroying this mutated cell. On further divisions, even more mutations take place, all of them closely similar to the body's genes. This similarity is what may actually help determine how the mutation is likely to progress, and how resistant it is to different treatments and even its spread.

Maintaining such gene records may help develop tailor-made treatments and drugs for patients, rather than the one-size-fits-all treatment, thus improving the odds of survival, even in stage 3 and 4 cancer patients.

Breast cancer affects 45000 women in UK alone and claims around 13000 lives of women under 50 years of age. The tricky choice facing these women is whether to consider a follow-up of chemotherapy post tumor removal, to ensure freedom from metastasized cells or to avoid that grueling option and hope for the best. That's exactly when these tailor-made drugs come in.

Recent research:

According to the recent research conducted in the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, there exist 2 genes (found in 20 percent breast cancer patients), that can make several commonly used drugs ineffective. Spotting these 2 genes could increase your chances of getting a proper treatment, What's more is that these genes can now be detected easily with a small kit.

Though sequencing the cancer genome is a long and tedious process, in the future it will surely help us understand more about different gene mutations that we were previously blind to. Also, it has already helped many patients receive targeted drug therapy, which is much more beneficial and effective than other therapies.

Gene therapy:

Gene therapy has achieved remarkable feats in the field of preventive medicine, especially cancer. It has reduced the death rates and opened a whole new unexplored world to the scientists.

Patients undergoing gene therapy are injected with genetic material (DNA or RNA) that improves the patient's ability to combat certain special diseases. Currently, these procedures are carried out under controlled clinical trials by using different approaches-some acting on affected cells thus preventing their growth, while some others targeting healthy cells and make them strong enough to combat cancer.

The introduction of 'suicide-genes' requires a round of applause. This commendable advancement involves the introduction of 'suicide genes' in the cancer cells. This gene then causes the cell to undergo self-destruction, killing many cancerous cells in the process.

Yet another amazing effort by the scientists is evident by the introduction of a new form of gene therapy, wherein the cancerous cells are injected with certain substances that make it more sensitive to chemotherapy, radiations and medicines, thereby easing up the treatment process.

These therapies, however, require a long approval process and are required to undergo a number of evaluations, approvals in terms of social and ethical issues etc. It may take a few years for these treatments to reach us, but in the end, the wait will be worthwhile.

References : Reader's digest-August

Source: Medindia

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