This past weekend’s annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology unveiled new cutting edge cancer treatments that provide new hope for patients with all types of cancer, including some that have been traditionally very difficult to treat.
According to a report by CBS-News, the conference was attended by some 30,000 physicians, scientists, and researchers, all of whom heard about a number of advances in the field of cancer treatment. This included the new so-called “smart bomb” treatment, which delivers a lethal dose of poison to cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. Preliminary testing showed great results with far fewer side effects than many traditional chemotherapy drugs, which also attack non-cancerous cells.
“The smart bomb treatments are two-punch weapons that combine substances called antibodies, which bond with specific cancer cells, and toxins that are too potent to be given by themselves, ” the article explained. “A chemical link holds them together until they attach to a tumor cell, releasing the poison inside it and killing the cell.”
“This is a classic example of the magic bullet concept” said Dr. Louis Weiner, director of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, explaining that such a concept has been pondered for more than a century but only recently has the technology been available to create such a drug. Dozens of “smart bomb” drugs are currently in the development phase.
In addition, conference attendees heard about drugs that are designed to boost the immune system’s ability to fight cancer. Another concept that has been long considered, these drugs can remove tumor cells’ cloaking mechanisms, therefore prompting the immune system to recognize them as enemies. Bristol-Myers Squibb, in particular, has had promising results during trials of their new immune system-enhancing drug.
“I haven’t seen anything this good” for many years for treating lung cancer, said Dr. Roy Herbst of the Yale Comprehensive Cancer Cancer. “I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t some benefit” on survival, he added.
Pfizer’s cancer drug development chief, Dr. Mace Rothenberg, also spoke about progress on new diagnostic tests to predict which drugs will work best for which patients. He added that cost and time sometimes makes it difficult to put such tests to use in everyday settings, but “a lot of these barriers are falling”, he explained.