Good Public Health In The News Case Study Example
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The latest issue of BBC News Health is dedicated to innovations in cancer therapy research. By BBC data, 50% of cancer patients survive through a decade, and the trend will be increasing every year (Walsh, 2015). So enhancing research infrastructure and surveillance efforts for cancer survivors was set as one of the key priority needs by CDC (CDC, 2004). In this news issue, Fergus Walsh, a BBC medical correspondent, dwells upon the new therapies and key issues preventing the scientists from effective cancer treatment, supported by real-life stories of real patients.
Problems in cancer research and treatment
Clinical trials. “The evil genius”, a metaphor used to describe the cancer by Dr. Udaj Banerij of the Institute of Cancer Research, perfectly depicts both the ongoing need for further research due to cancers’ extreme variability, and the new challenges emerging cancer treatments pose to scientists, clinicians and patients. In case the conventional treatment protocols are not effective, the patients are invited to take part into clinical trials of new therapy modes. The same principle is valid for the patients with hereditary cancer caused by faulty genes or untypical cancer forms due to unusual mutations. Three patients’ stories, one of 11-year-old girl with a rare IMFT cancer, and two of the middle-age women with advanced cancers, are presented to illustrate the progress of new clinical trials.
Targeted therapies. Targeted therapies are new calibre therapies which block specific cells engaged in cancer growth, preventing them from division and proliferation. Unlike the conventional therapies (e.g. chemotherapy or hormone therapy) which are generally cytotoxic (i.e. target all the dividing cells), targeted therapies focus only and exclusively at those genetic defects which promote the tumor growth. Such therapies are very beneficial for the patients as they usually last less and do not have side-effects typical of chemotherapy. Tami Morris, a woman with advanced ovarian cancer, expresses opinion the targeted therapy granted her additional four years of life, after having fighted with cancer for more than a decade. The story of 11-year-old Sophie Armitage, called by clinicians “a miracle girl”, shows that the experimental targeted drug LDK 378 blocking a rare genetic tumor, helped her to hamper the disease after the lung surgery and start dreaming of later life.
The level of human genetics knowledge is one of crucial factors which can both boost and retard the development of targeted therapies. The more advancement scientists have in DNA sequencing, the more new targeted therapies we can probably expect. Another factor which can challenge the success of new targeted treatments is cancer resistance. These treatments are focused at faulty genes; however, having survived even Darwinian evolution, the majority of inherited cancers are genetically unstable. Tami Morris faced the same genetical instability of her cancer, when the targeted therapy stopped to deal. The scientists believe stopping the cancer resistance will allow transforming it into a manageable disease, and should be one of the key research priorities.
Immunotherapies. Another modern approach to fight cancer is stimulating the inherent resources of the body, the natural defense mechanism called immune system. Immunotherapies activate T- killers against cancer cells preventing the latter from blocking the natural immune response. Immunotherapy of cancer demonstrated particular progress in the treatment of one of the most malignant skin tumors, melanoma.The story of Vicky Brown diagnozed with melanoma only on the stage of metastatic disease, illustrates that two immunotherapy drugs, ipilimumab and nivolumab, which she took in clinical trial mode, increased her survival almost twice against the average rate of 6 months. Though the patients’ compliance is crucial for success, Vicky had to stop treatment earlier due to side-effects (hepatitis and meningitis). Luckily, the therapy worked and her cancer was stopped.
Apart from serious side effects the patients may have, immunotherapy can demonstrate adantages even over the targeted therapy. The scientists believe this kind of treatment reprogrammes human cells in such a way they can recognize and tackle even genetically resistant and sporadically mutating tumours. New clinical immunotherapy trials for lung and kidney cancers show excellent results, though the high costs make them a challenge for modern health care system.
The BBS News Health release shows that progress in cancer research has increased the number of cancer survivors and the survival rate even for the rarest forms of cancer. Targeted therapies and immunotherapies remain the field for further focus, as they tackle different direct mechanisms of tumor growth inhibition and enable more and more patients to survive. The patients’ stories illustrate that new research is necessary in this area, though the costs of new drugs can be a burden to healthcare system. New clinical trials, patients’ adherence and continuity of treatment can be a solution to reduce this economic burden (Darkow et al., 2007).
1. Centers for Control and Disease Prevention (2004). A National Action Plan for Cancer Survivorship: Advancing Public Health Strategies. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/survivorship/pdf/plan.pdf
2.Darkow,T.,Henk,H.J.,Thomas,S.K.,Feng,W.,Baladi,J.F.,Goldberg,G,Cortes,J.(2007).Treatment Interruptions and Non-Adherence with Imatinib and Associated Healthcare Costs. PharmacoEconomics, 25(6), 481-496.
3. Walsh, F. (2015, February 11). Defeating Cancer - the Evil Genius. BBC News Health. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-31365272
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