Are we getting any closer to curing cancer? There is hope on the horizon, of course. The mRNA COVID-19 vaccine was for cancer but was redesigned to fit the requirements of the fight against coronavirus. That the COVID-19 vaccine was successful in stopping the severity of infections only shows that this is something researchers can use in the near future. New approaches in cancer research showed development in taming the immune system in fighting cancer cells. This is a huge leap toward a world where cancer is already a curable disease.
Access to Participant
One of the most complex parts of research is finding the right participants. But thanks to technology, it has become easier to find and filter the right volunteers to join one’s cancer research. Before, researchers have to vet each participant in the study. This is to make sure that they will get the most accurate representation from the patients. But lo and behold, market research firms have come up with an idea to form groups of participants for highly sensitive cancer research.
This means that anyone looking for non-small-cell lung cancer research participants only has to partner with these market research firms to tap its wide pool of survey and research participants. These are properly vetted pools of cancer patients who fit the bill of who researchers need for studying cancer.
Data Extraction and Representation
All the more that it became easy for cancer researchers to find participants because of electronic health records (EHRs). While EHRs were not designed specifically to aid research and medical surveys, it becomes instrumental in accessing patient records (provided that they have authorized the researchers to do so). The EHRs are good sources of information about the patients’ history, demographics, lifestyle, comorbidity, treatments, and management.
The availability of this data to researchers now enabled them to fast-track their studies. EHRs are double-checked to ensure their accuracy. While researchers still conduct interviews and discussions with patients, their medical records being easily accessible makes the work less of a struggle.
The transformation of healthy cells into tumor cells happens because of genetic mutations. That causes cancer. Research on treating and managing cancer is centered on these mutations, although they seem to be different in each tumor. Cancer researchers said that there are no similar mutations in two tumors, so there is the possibility of discovering a treatment that only works for a particular mutation. That is what vaccine researchers are trying to address.
Each patient may get a vaccine tailored for their particular tumor. This will happen through DNA sequences of the healthy cells and the tumor cells. The information culled from the cells will tell the researchers what will likely trigger a strong reaction from the immune system of the cancer patient. The personalized vaccine will provide a protein that will tell the immune system not to overreact once the cancer cells are detected.
There are, of course, controversies surrounding sharing data via the cloud. However, no one can deny the advantages of using the cloud system to collaborate with researchers all over the world. Technology has been quick to adapt with the Seven Bridges Cancer Genomics Cloud, which can analyze and store genomic databases without the requirement for physical infrastructure. Cloud computing is not only for storing data, but it is also for sifting through massive amounts of data via an algorithm.
This type of medical research has nothing to do about editing your genetic sequence so the government can use it against you. That is something that you will see in a conspiracy theorist’s blog. Rather, what scientists will do is use the CRISPR/Cas9 technology to remove a gene from the immune T cells that provide a way for cancer cells to avoid an immune response. The same technology can even be used to improve CAR-T cell therapies.
Cancer has better screening technologies now. This leads scientists to the possibility of identifying the genetic makeup and lifestyles of people at risk of cancer. With more specific cancer biomarkers, screening technologies have become better and more accurate. If people understand their risk factors, then doctors would also have an easier time diagnosing them and planning a way to manage this disease. Of course, the technology is far from perfect, but it’s a nice step toward a more reliable early detection test for cancer.
Technology will play a significant role in cancer research not only today but for the coming decades. While there is no exact promise yet that cancer can soon be cured, the tides are turning. And it looks like there will be a day in the future when families can finally breathe a sigh of relief.