British Telegraph reports that thanks to ongoing work on the advanced treatment method, which should be available in some five years or so, medical experts believe that they will be able to make cancer an illness that one can live with.
Currently their hope is that by sequencing the genetic code of the tumor that the patient is afflicted with will contribute to making certain types of cancer a chronic instead of a deadly disease, as the doctors will have a clearer idea about which type of medication to use on which patient in order to keep cancer in check.
This new technique should enable the patients who are in the last stages of cancer progression and who would normally only have a couple of months left to live to stay alive for additional ten years in relatively good health, as the experts from the London Cancer Research Institute claim.
“Cancer often afflicts older people and if manage to keep them alive long enough, that would mean that we have managed to transform cancer into a chronic disease” as Professor Alan Ashworth, who is a general director of the London Cancer Research Institute, explained.
The intention of the Institute is to form a DNA database in order to help them identify certain groups of genes which are responsible for the development of cancer. With that goal in mind, they are starting a three-year project that will cost 3 million pounds, called the Tumor Profiling Unit.
Tumor genetic profiling is already being used to some extent, but right now, only certain genes are included. Women who are suffering from advanced stages of breast cancer are going through DNA analyses in order for medical experts to determine whether the tumors contain a specific variant of the HER2 gene, which seems to be responsible for a fifth of all breast cancer tumors.
The women that don’t have that gene are being treated with Herceptin, however, the same drug is, unfortunately, not effective in the treatment of women who don’t have the gene. One of the patients of the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea, which is where the institute is based, has been kept alive by Herceptin for ten years now, despite the fact that she is an advanced stage of breast cancer. Sadly, such cases are still an exception, but important progress is being made.
Professor Ashworth said that their hope is that such cases will, in time, become the norm, as active profiling of the patients who are responding to a particular medication, and by sequencing their genome, they should be able to identify the genes which are causing the appearance of tumors.
The projections for the project are quite promising, but we won’t be able to reap its benefits for a few more years. While five to ten years period is given as the time in which most of the types of cancer will be entered into the data base, the experts from the institute believe that as soon as in two or three years, there will already be patients who will be kept alive by this method.