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Why so many treatments for cancer?

  1. Mar 31, 2015 #1
    After spending some time doing a project on cancer I found out there are dozens of treatments abailable to at least decrease the cell divison in cancerous cells. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgury. Each one divides into sub categories with tons of treatments available.
    After looking at lung cancer, (none small cell and small cell lung cnacer) I relized people diagnosed are increasing over the years and yet there are treatments such as tumor electric field therapy, and targeted therapy and still the rates of survival is decearsing, (these statsictics are based on a 2011 sampling available on UK cancer research website.)

    Why? Why still with so many treatments, lung cancer survival rate is much less than other types, and it is one of the top popular types of cancer?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 31, 2015 #2


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    Cancer is not one single disease. Although they are characterized by the same general property (uncontrolled cell division), cancers differ significantly depending on the cell types from which they originate and the particular mutations they contain. For example, the properties of breast cancer cells can differ drastically depending on which types of receptors they express on their surface, and these have important implications for their treatment and prognosis.

    Because cancers are very different between individuals, treatment plans also differ between individuals. The location and size of a tumor determine which types of treatment are feasible (for example, some tumors arise in areas where surgery is difficult, so doctors must rely on other methods). Which types of chemotherapy are best to use also depend on the specifics of the cancer. Many cancer drugs target specific proteins that are overactive in some cancers, so they will be most effective on cancers that rely on those specific proteins, but ineffective on cancers that rely on a different set of proteins. There is also the fact that many cancer treatments are not very effective (or they are effective in only a small fraction of patients for some of the reasons I stated above), so in some cases, doctors are just throwing a bunch of crazy ideas for treatment around, hoping one will work.

    For the past ~ decade, there has been a pushed towards personalized or precision medicine, especially in oncology. We imagine being able to sequence a tumor to identify the mutations driving tumor growth, then choose the appropriate treatments to target those specific mutations. While there have been some success stories from this approach, we are still very far from this goal, and oncology sometimes resembles more of an art than a science. Recent advancements in genome sequencing technologies and newer ideas like immunotherapy, however, offer some promise for better understanding of cancer and better therapies in the future.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2015
  4. Mar 31, 2015 #3


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    I don't know that you could call any form of cancer "popular".

    I think you meant to say that lung cancer is frequently found in certain populations, e.g. smokers, people exposed to asbestos, etc.
  5. Mar 31, 2015 #4


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    One of the big challenges with treating lung cancers are that you have a cancer that grows inside a critical organ. A person can survive without a prostate or a breast, it's a lot more challenging to live without a lung, particularly if the other lung is already compromised in some way as it often is in people who develop lung cancers.

    Another big challenge is motion. In order for radiation therapy to work, you have to hit the cancer, but because the patient is breathing this motion means you have to irradiate a large volume of healthy lung. This limits the quantity of radiation you can use. There's a lot of interesting work being done to mitigate motion problems (image-guidance, motion tracking, gating, etc.) but it's still not perfect.

    On top of that there's also the stage of detection. It's difficult to screen people for lung cancer and a large portion of lung cancer patients have other problems that can mask early signs and symptoms. As a result, by the time people are diagnosed, the disease will often be at a later stage compared to some other cancers. And the rule of thumb is that the later the disease is detected, the more difficult it is to successfully treat.
  6. Apr 2, 2015 #5
    Wow, thanks for your comments, wasn't expecting that much detail. Cheers.
  7. Apr 2, 2015 #6


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    You might be interested to know that there is more than one type of "lung cancer". My ex-fiancee's father died from lung cancer, initially they were treating him for the wrong type.

    Even more interesting is that cancer that has spread to the lungs has to be treated for the original type of cancer.

  8. Apr 5, 2015 #7


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    Since I brought up the topic of personalized medicine here, I thought I'd also share a particulary good essay I found in the New York Times that discusses some of the difficulties we face when moving forward with personalized medicine.
  9. Jan 4, 2017 #8
    The treatment of cancer depends upon many factors such as stage of the cancer, how far the cells have spread and moreover, how the human body respond to the treatments and how much time your body requires for the treatment. Lung cancer is classified into two types: first is primary lung cancer which starts in the lungs itself while the second is the secondary lung cancer which reaches the lungs from other parts of the body. There are many radiation centers, which provide the best treatments for lung cancer, such as Montefiore Medical Center, Advanced Radiation Center where in you can go through proper treatments for lung cancer. Other than chemotherapy, there are many other alternative treatment for lung cancer, which you can go for to cure the lung cancer.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 4, 2017
  10. Jan 4, 2017 #9
    The major cause of lung cancer is cigarette smoking. The risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes you smoked.
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