Experimental Cancer Treatment

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Experimental Cancer Treatment

Experimental Cancer Treatment: Debate & Value 

experimental cancer treatmentThe term experimental cancer treatment refers to therapeutic modalities that differ from conventional methods of treating cancer. Their fundamental purpose is to supplement, improve upon or replace traditional methods of cancer treatments. Most of the experimental cancer treatments go through intensive scrutiny. Clinical trials are common methods of analyzing the responses of various tumors, as well as patients, to experimental therapies. Usually, such investigations are time-consuming and costly. Some of the factors that go into consideration are efficacy, toxicity and marketability. Through experimental therapies, scientists discover new cancer treatment methods, improve efficacy of treatments and can find ways to make them more affordable.


Types of Experimental Cancer Treatments

Examples of cancer treatments that have unique approaches include immunotherapy, regional chemotherapy, hyperthermia, non-invasive cancer treatment and adoptive cell transfer therapies.

Hyperthermia is a treatment method that uses administration of heat to the entire body or on a particular part of the body. Observations show that intense heat can rapidly denature cellular proteins and kill the cells within the cancerous tumor. Hypothermia can also be very useful in combination with other therapies to attain better responses to treatment. For example, combination of hypothermia and regional chemotherapy (RCT) can significantly improve responses of some tumors to the therapy.

Non-invasive cancer treatments refer to those therapies which do not require any form of surgical intervention. Non-invasive therapies allow doctors to treat cancer without removing any tissue. They can eliminate the risks that are usually present with surgical approaches. Patients with non-resectable cancers can benefit from such therapies. They can also enable the patients to recover faster from the therapy, as there is no need for post-operative recovery and operative wound healing.

Adoptive cell transfers usually involve the biopsy to obtain a sample. Sample cells from a patient undergo complex restructuring. After that they are reintroduced to the patient’s body with intent to expose cancer cells to the immune system. If the procedure is successful, the response of immune system will target and fight specific cancerous cells. Not only can this method cause damage to cancer, but also it could protect the patient going forward. It does it by making cancer cells visible to the immune system and exposing them to a defensive attack.


Making Decisions About Experimental Cancer Treatment

Because experimental cancer treatments stand outside of standard regiments and treatment protocols, they are usually the last in the line of therapy options. Only when conventional methods of cancer treatment fail, most patients resort to experimental cancer treatments. Despite the status of being experimental, in many cases experimental cancer treatments can be an important resource in the arsenal available to cancer patients. Unfortunately, experimental cancer therapies come with limitations of access and cost. In many cases patients will consider alternative cancer treatments only as the last resort because of the price tag. However, loosing time when fighting cancer is not a winning strategy. Thus, the cost of the therapy has to be considered in terms of potential benefit and relative to other options.


Pre-Treated Cancers & Experimental Cancer Treatments

In addition to costs, another hurdle that experimental cancer treatments have to measure up to is breaking through the tumor resistance to the treatment. Although, this factor depends on the type of therapy and the kind of cancer, it is not easy to find a powerful alternative that can break through tumor resistance. This can be most evident in patients who were heavily pre-treated with radiation therapy or systemic chemotherapy.

Despite all the challenges, achieving long and short-term remissions through experimental cancer treatments is possible. Even in some of the cases of heavily pretreated cancers there is a possibility of achieving a remission. The important questions that cancer patients have to deal with and discuss with their medical teams are the effectiveness of their treatment protocols. Periodic evaluation of the ongoing treatment will allow cancer patients and their MDs to make important decisions. For example, tough decisions regarding whether or not the standard treatment is working. If it does not, it may be the time to look at alternatives.