The field of oncology has progressed substantially over the last 50 years. As Dr. Kevin Dalby explains, these modern advances have led to breakthroughs in cancer prevention efforts, innovative therapies that target cancer cells, and clinical research.
Top five advances in modern oncology:
Here are the top five advances in modern oncology that have changed how the scientific world approaches cancer.
#1. HPV Vaccine
One of the most significant oncological developments of the last 20 years happened in 2006 when the vaccine for Human papillomavirus first became available. All HPV vaccines can protect against HPV types 18 and 16 at the very least.
Studies have found that the vaccine could prevent up to 80% of anal cancers, 70% of cervical cancers, 40% of vulvar cancers, and 60% of vaginal cancers.
Since the creation and approval of the HPV vaccines, the World Health Organization has made them part of their recommended routine vaccinations for every country.
#2. Discovery of the TP53 gene
In 1979, scientists discovered what has now known as “the guardian of the genome” — the TP53 gene. Sometimes called p53, the gene helps prevent cancer formation and helps conserve stability as it prevents mutations of genes.
The p53 protein it produces also helps suppress the growth of tumors and control the proliferation of cells. This gene is the one that mutates most frequently, making it key to help prevent mutations.
Nearly 60 years ago, in 1965, it was discovered that administering combination chemotherapy to patients induced remission over a long period for more than half of all adults who had Hodgkin lymphoma. The combined chemotherapy was called MOPP for mechlorethamine, vincristine, procarbazine, and prednisone.
Today, roughly 90% of patients with this type of cancer can be cured due to the discovery of MOPP.
#4. Anti-Nausea Drugs
In 1991, doctors introduced ondansetron, a powerful drug that calms nausea in chemotherapy and other treatments. This was a remarkable discovery and one that has made advanced cancer treatments much more doable for patients.
Beyond just making patients more comfortable, it helps them avoid going to the hospital regularly and allows them to complete the full treatment course, which results in better and longer lives.
#5. PLCO Cancer Screening
In 2012, it was discovered through clinical trials that screening of people who are at least 55 years old for colorectal cancer reduced both the number of cancer cases and mortality rates.
As Dr. Kevin Dalby explains, the trials found that screened individuals had a 21% lower risk of developing this type of cancer and a 26% lower risk of dying from it.
Today, screening for colon cancer is routine and commonplace for individuals over the age of 55. It’s even become a procedure used in younger individuals who may be at greater risk of colon cancer.
About Dr. Kevin Dalby
Dr. Kevin Dalby is a chemical biology and medicinal chemistry professor who is currently working on cancer drug discovery. At the College of Pharmacy at The University of Texas, he examines the mechanisms of nature and cancer to develop new treatments and teach and motivate students to conduct research. Dalby is optimistic about the future of cancer treatments.